The British energy supplier Ovo has put some very well-spent hours into a comprehensive calculation of the operating costs of the Death Star, which will return to the spotlight in the December 16th movie Rogue One. They conclude that operating the planet-destroying starbase would cost 6.2 octillion British pounds, or $7.8 octillion, per day—that’s $7,800,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
To put that absurdly large number in perspective, $7.8 octillion is more than 100 trillion times the $70 trillion annual global economic activity of Earth, or 30 trillion times the roughly $200 trillion in wealth on our little blue planet.
Ovo’s analysis, conducted in collaboration with physics blogger Stephen Skolnick and Dartmouth mathematics Professor Alexander Barnett, approaches the granularity of a good business model (if your business is blowing up planets to intimidate a rebellious populace). A few of the highlighted line-items include about $52 billion per day for lighting, and $200 million per round of laundry.
But what really gets you is that darn laser, which would need a power source three million times more powerful than the sun to recharge, at a cost of nearly $8 octillion a pop. (Ovo isn’t clear on how often they assume the laser would be fired, but apparently it’s less than once per day).
You might think there’d be hope on the income side of the calculation, which Ovo didn’t tackle. Sure, $7.7 octillion is a lot of dollars for those of us confined to a single planet. But according to this expert Quora source, the Galactic Empire at its peak controlled 1.5 million core worlds and 69 million colonies, all knit together through a centrally-planned economy.
But even assuming all 70 million of those worlds are as productive as today’s Earth, their total annual output would still only be about 5-to-the-21st-power dollars, or a measly half-sextillion. The shortfall only gets worse when you limit the Imperial tax rate to a draconian-but-plausible 50%, and the Death Star’s share of the Imperial budget to the neighborhood of 70%—you’ve still got to pay for all those starships, after all. And we’re still not even touching the thing’s absurd up-front costs, previously estimated at $852 quadrillion.
In other words, the Death Star would bankrupt the Imperial economy faster than it blew up Alderaan. More likely, it would never see the light of day as anything other than a woefully misguided pitch deck, endlessly forwarded between Galactic venture capitalists in need of a good laugh.
Any space station that can readily be mistaken for a moon is going to cost a pretty penny to operate on a day-to-day basis, and the Death Star is no different. According to one estimate, the spherical super-weapon from the Star Wars franchise would have cost £6.2 octillion (about $7.76 octillion!) to run for just 24 hours. If that number’s hard to fathom, think of it this way: That’s actually 30 trillion times more money than there is on Earth. No wonder the Rebels resented the Empire so much — imagine what the taxes must have been like in a galaxy far, far away.
This half-fun, half-serious estimate comes courtesy of Ovo Energy, an energy supply company based in Bristol, England. In honor of the upcoming release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, the company teamed with Alexander Barnett, a math professor at Dartmouth University, and Stephen Skolnick, editor of Physics Central, to crunch the numbers on the Death Star’s operation costs. (Thanks to Mental Floss for the tip). Not only did they account for such important factors as keeping the lights on and feeding the crew of over two million, but they also sketched out rough estimates for how much it costs to destroy a planet with a super-laser.
Check out the full breakdown via infographic, and may the Force be with those accountants.
death star costs uk The Death Star from Star Wars would cost $7.7 octillion to operate for just one day
We should note that this isn’t the first time people have tried to crunch the numbers on the Death Star. Back in 2012, a group of economics students from Lehigh University used a slightly different methodology to arrive at a figure of $852 quadrillion just for the steel required alone. Either way, the costs verges on the unthinkable — but isn’t that what science fiction is for?