Top tips for designing a giant orbiting death station

If you hadn’t already guessed, this is in response to The Force Awakens, which I had the great pleasure of seeing yesterday. 10/10, would definitely recommend.

I will do my best to avoid spoilers, but if you are an extreme purist, it might be best to read this with your eyes closed, just in case.

Giant Orbital Death Station design tips:

1.Give it a catchy name

The Death Star is a great name for a base. Starkiller Base isn’t. Even though it is more descriptive of what the base can do, it’s an awful name. Death Star. Short, snappy, inspires fear in the hearts of the rebel alliance.

2. Pick a good external aesthetic and stick with it

The Death Star has a good design scheme. All grey. Starkiller doesn’t. (If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know what I mean.) Sure, what they went with is very nice and cinematic. But it isn’t the most practical. Either make your base a symbol of fear and destruction (by painting it bright red and covering it in scary logos, each one a hundred miles across, or camouflage it as a normal planet/moon. Don’t just mix and match, or your death station will look weird, and thus detectable to rebel forces.

3. For heaven’s sake, keep the surface clean

Don’t cover the surface of your battle station in metallic canyons, forests, interesting mountains or giant buildings. If there’s one thing that rebel forces love, it’s a place to hide. Every time, the X-Wings fly up an artificial canyon and are out of the range of the main guns and large defence ships. Instead, make the surface of your station a featureless plain, marked only by gun emplacements that do not need to swivel to follow attackers. There will be no places for the rebel ships to swoop around in an ambush.

3b. Use gun emplacements that don’t need to swivel

You clearly have the resources and technical expertise to build a death station the size of a small moon. Don’t have turrets with only one angle of attack. No matter how good your turrets are, the spaceships will always be faster. Have a turret with multiple sets of guns that cover the entire perimeter of the tower.

4. Get a good early warning system.

You would think that a giant battle station thingy would have a decent early warning system. Nope. Better luck next time.

5. Hide all the important bits under the surface, out of the range of enemy fire.

Why would you have an unshielded thermal exhaust port, or a ‘thermal oscillator’ the size of a small city, sitting exposed on the surface with virtually no protection? Either hide these things deep below the outer shell of the station, or put an iron ceiling of defence bases all around them. And on that note, don’t have a control centre that sits on the surface with giant glass windows. Even I could tell you that.

6. Put proper handrails on all your bridges.

Sure, a giant bridge across a near-bottomless pit may look dramatic and be great for a perilous duel, but that thing is a health and safety hazard. Make it wide enough for at least 2 people to pass and put a safety rail on it. Someone could be seriously hurt, falling off that thing into a bottomless pit.

7. When you are storing stellar amounts of energy, don’t put it all in one giant pit.

Just like any good electric car maker will know, having one giant energy core is a disaster waiting to happen. Don’t have one big reactor core with an unshielded thermal exhaust port: have lots of small ones, scattered throughout the base, cooled internally.

So, next time you are designing a massive planet-sized orbiting death station, bear that in mind. No unshielded exhaust ports, no conveniently X-Wing sized canyons, better shields. Honestly.

Also, you should totally go and see The Force Awakens. It’s a great film.


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