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The original Death Star was blown up by Luke, a relativley untrained pilot flying with the Rebels. Yes, he had the force on his side, but in the end it was pretty easy.

The second (bigger) Death Star also got blown up by the rebels.

In The Force Awakens, an even smaller bunch of rebels, with only a handful of ships, manage to blow up an even bigger Deathstar.

Why can't the bad guys manage to make something that's a just a bit harder to destroy?

closed as primarily opinion-based by KutuluMike, calccrypto, DVK-on-Ahch-To, Rand al'Thor, phantom42 Dec 29 '15 at 1:15

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    This is really asking us to speculate about the intent of the people writing the movies, which isn't really in scope for this site. (Plus, the only right answer is "because the movies would suck otherwise") – KutuluMike Dec 29 '15 at 0:42
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    Thanks @MikeEdenfield It seems like a lot of the questions on this site could fall into that category. Any suggestions how I could reword my question? – nedlud Dec 29 '15 at 0:46
  • This is also a duplicate as well – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 29 '15 at 0:49
  • The DVK has spoken! thunder claps – CandiedMango Dec 29 '15 at 0:54
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    @nedlud What it sounds like you want to ask is, instead of "why can't they build a better one", is "why did the ones they build need to have such significant weaknesses?"... though I don't know there's a good answer, it does focus on something that could be answered. – KutuluMike Dec 29 '15 at 1:22
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Shorter answer.

If you ask me, the first Death Star and Starkiller Base were well designed to repel assault and attack; Starkiller Base slightly better than the Death Star since it was a full-sized planet and the access to the power storage in Starkiller Base required a ground assault to penetrate; not some dinky thermal exhaust port.

But in the case of Death Star II its destruction was not a design issue but rather an issue of arrogance. By rushing the offensive capabilities of the station to be online in an effort to trap the Rebels, the risk of defensive collapse happening was far greater since the station was partially built. Here is the breakdown.

  • Death Star I: The first Death Star was only destroyed after the Rebels discovered a weakness via the stolen plans and exploited it to their advantage. Without those plans, the Death Star would still be intact and the Rebels would have been destroyed.

  • Death Star II: When Death Star II came around, it was partially constructed and mainly functional on an offensive basis in an effort to lure the Rebels into a trap to destroy them. While the shields that protected Death Star II—which were generated from a base on Endor—were markedly stronger than those that protected the first Death Star, the second those shields went down, anyone could attack it with relative ease; which is what the Rebels were hoping for.

  • Starkiller Base: This was a planet converted into a weapon with a headquarters for the First Order. As a planet it had no internal reactor that could have been blown up, so in many ways this is inherently a more stable design than either of the Death Stars. But its main weakness came when it was charging its weapon to fire it and—even with that window of attack possibility in play—to destroy it one would need to engage in a coordinated ground and air assault.

Longer answer.

Death Star I

The first Death Star was destroyed by Rebels after stealing plans to the Death Star itself and analyzing it for weaknesses. Without those plans—the key to the whole story of the first Star Wars film—the Rebellion had little hope to destroy it. Their conclusion was two-fold:

  1. Not Designed for Small Craft Assault: The Death Star was designed to repel large craft assaults, but was inadequate to deal with small craft assault. Small craft could easily pass through the station’s protective shields but were not considered a threat that a few random TIE fighters or turbo laser batteries couldn’t deal with.

  2. Weakness Found from Analyzing Plans: A weakness was found in the overall Death Star design that allowed a small craft assault to successfully deploy a payload that would cause the hypermatter reactor to blow up. This was a weakness even the Death Star staff were unaware off until the Rebel assault was analyzed.

Death Star II

While the second Death Star was more powerful than the first, it was partially constructed. This left huge gaping holes in the infrastructure that the Rebels wanted to take advantage of. But the Emperor’s desire to rush the construction of the station to be offensively capable—so as to lure the Rebels into a trap and destroy them—left the station defensively weak and contributed to it’s destruction:

  1. Offensively Capable: While the Emperor gloated to Luke about how the station was fully operational, it was really only operational from an offensive point of view. It’s defensive capabilities were minimal to non-existant and they required the Imperial fleet to provide active defense as well as a shield generator planet-side on Endor to provide a passive defense. The Emperor felt that luring the Rebels into a trap and destroying them would be a simple process and didn’t even see those tiny, tribal Ewoks as being capable of aiding the Rebels in their efforts.

  2. Stronger Shields But Defensively Weaker: Since Death Star II was co-dependent on defensive shields based on a nearby planet, the second the shields on Endor came down, there was no need to fly down a narrow trench and shoot torpedoes down a small exhaust port: The ships could just fly straight into the incomplete infrastructure of the space station, head to the reactor at its core, blow it up and head out before it was blown to bits.

    Also worth noting is the shields used on Endor to protect Death Star II were far stronger than the shields on the first Death Star since ships could not get through; remember how Lando had to call off the attack based on Nien Nunb’s observation. So the Empire clearly learned their lesson in some way from the destruction of Death Star I, but screwed up in another way by having the overall strategic impact of a total shield breach being so much worse than it was with Death Star I.

Starkiller Base

This was a full planet converted into a weapon by the First Order. The defenses here were much better than the first Death Star or Death Star II since the shields were stronger and the setup was more complex.

  1. Only Effective Attack Was To Strike While It’s Charging: Since it relied on power from a nearby star/sun the only real effective way of attacking/destroying it would be while it was charging its weapon to fire. Without the stored power, the planetary weapon is just an empty, dead weapon on a planet and would require and immense amount of external power to destroy. Meaning the Resistance would need the equivalent of its own Death Star to destroy Starkiller Base if they did not attack it while it was charging its weapon.

  2. Even With Shields Down It Was Not Easy to Take Down: That said, even with the shields down, the Resistance fighters deployed in the assault could not make a dent in destroying the thermal oscillator that stored the power the weapon was harvesting from a nearby star/sun.

  3. Supportive Efforts of a Ground Assault to Seal the Deal: The deciding moment was when the small Resistance ground assault team managed to plant explosives in the area around the thermal oscillator that not only significantly damaged it, but provided an opening large enough for the Resistance assault fighters to deliver the final, decisive blow that would release all of that contained energy engulfing the planet itself in a fireball.

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    I wonder how such a great answer can come out of such a poor question. – Kalissar Dec 29 '15 at 8:47
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The Death Star I wasn't easy to destroy. The thermal exhaust port is only 2 meters wide, and it would take a starfighter near-ideal conditions to successfully fire a proton torpedo in. Add to that the base defences in the form of turbolasers and TIE squadrons, and only one other pilot besides Luke managed to find an opportunity to make a trench run before Darth Vader arrived - his torpedo didn't make it because he was under immense pressure in a race against time. In pretty cliché fashion, you're underestimating the power of the Force (in overcoming battlefield stress).

If Darth Vader wasn't there, if the Rebellion had enough fighters to throw at the Empire, and if there was no time limit, the Death Star may eventually fall without the Force, but the Battle of Yavin was none of that.

The Death Star II was actually indestructible once complete - it's many times bigger, there is no more vulnerability like the thermal exhaust port to exploit, it had proportionately more surface defences (turbolasers) and TIE squadron complements than the first to combat starfighter threats and the superlaser can be calibrated for energy-efficient destruction of enemy capital ships for proportionately lower cooldown instead of the Death Star I's cooldown of 24 hours. It's indestructible when complete, but Palpatine wanted to use its apparent weakness when under construction as bait. That backfired spectacularly, but you can't use that as argument the Empire couldn't build an invincible weapon - it would have been.

As for Starkiller Base, I can't be certain, but it's possible the First Order got overconfident - if something is the size of a planet instead of a moon, surely it'll take so much more to destroy it, right? Still, it took exceptional skill to destroy it.

All the starfighters the Resistance could throw at the First Order wasn't enough to destroy it on their own - they're only scratching the surface and the TIEs that scrambled to defend the base basically picked off half of the Resistance fighters before the situation changed. It was thanks to Han & Chewie's explosives that opened a hole which permitted only one with the skill of Poe (the best pilot of the Resistance and maybe the galaxy) to fly through and destroy it from within.

One should not judge a weapon's ability to stand up to external attack based on its ease of falling to an internal one, I say.

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