23

In the Rogue One film, the rebels steal some plans from the imperial citadel on Scarif. Was that the plan of the entire Death Star, or only of the reactor that Galen Erso had designed?

On one hand, the rebels stole the plan from a large library archive with apparently thousands of plans. Jyn literally had to climb on the cabinet of the archives, even though the physical plan she stole itself wasn't too big. I find it hard to believe that the Empire had thousands of large projects like the Death Star, but much easier to believe that the Death Star had a hundred components, each with a similar plan on a separate floppy disk in that archive. Also, this could explain How did Galen Erso know about the codename for the plans of the station?

(On the other hand, we saw the plans projected in A New Hope and briefly in Rogue One, and it seems as if it showed more details of the Death Star than necessary for just the reactor.) Update: it turns out that the detailed projections I was thinking about are those of the second Death Star, shown in Return of the Jedi, so the previous sentence is wrong.

See also Did the Empire have a backup set of plans for the first Death Star?

  • 3
    Seems like all of it. Galen Erso went to great length to say, "get these plans, within these plans, there's a certain part you must find (re: reactor core), etc."; otherwise he would have just said: "Get the reactor core plans". – Möoz Jan 3 '17 at 21:40
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    Those disks weren't floppy. – Wildcard Jan 3 '17 at 22:12
  • 2
    I could swear I heard it called a tape in the dialogue. – Random832 Jan 3 '17 at 23:20
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    @Random832 "Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes." – suchiuomizu Jan 4 '17 at 0:10
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    I think your premise (I find it hard to believe that the Empire had thousands of large projects like the Death Star) is flawed. It's a data vault - for all we know the neighboring tapes could contain social security records of storm troopers, it doesn't need to be Death Star like projects. – Ghanima Jan 4 '17 at 15:39
10

The novelization indicates that they are structural plans (emphasis mine):

"You'll need the plans, the structural plans, to find your way, but they exist. Sabotage from the inside is impossible: Krennic is too paranoid. But I've thought about this, Saw, prepared everything for you I could."

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Official Novelization Chapter 6

Although it's not immediately clear that these plans depict every minute detail of the Death Star, they're evidently more detailed than just Galen's reactor; this is obvious if for no other reason than because Galen doesn't know about the exhaust port, which was discovered from analyzing those plans.

In A New Hope, General Tagge indicates that the plans are complete, at least on a technical level (emphasis mine):

Tagge: And what of the Rebellion? If the Rebels have obtained a complete technical readout of this station, it is possible, however unlikely, that they might find a weakness and exploit it.

A new Hope (1977)

  • "If the Rebels have obtained a complete technical readout of this station," I don't think Tagge is assuming the rebels have a complete technical readout. The imperials probably don't know how much data the rebels stole, so Tagge might be saying that to make people think the worse. – RichS Jan 4 '17 at 6:11
  • @RichS Indeed, hence why I don't come down definitively – Jason Baker Jan 4 '17 at 14:11
23

It contained the complete design history

Slotted into the Scarif vault’s structural engineering node in its datatree is a cartridge nearly identical to all others. It contains the design history of the Death Star, from earliest explorations to final approved schematics. In the rebels’ infiltration of the vault, Jyn is able to remove the cartridge from its storage slot and abscond with the plans.

Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide

The Death Star schematics shown in the Ultimate Visual Guide show a great deal of detail about all aspects of the Death Star, such as the computer core and even the turbolift shafts, not merely things related to the superlaser or power generation:

enter image description here

Other sources bear this out. For example, Galen Erso describes it as a "complete engineering archive," suggesting that it contained all the information about the Death Star:

“I know there’s at least one complete engineering archive in the data vault at the Citadel Tower on Scarif. Use what I’ve told you, run the analysis, and you’ll be able to plan your attack. Any pressurized explosion to the reactor module will set off a chain reaction that will -”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Tarkin spoke in similar terms, calling them “the original plans”:

Tarkin spoke with detached consideration, as much to himself as Romodi. “The original plans for this station are kept at the Citadel, are they not?”

“They are.”

Along with other technical schematics for projects covered by the Tarkin Initiative. It would be a special pity, Tarkin thought, to see War-Mantle and Stellarsphere set back. But hardly a major blow to the galactic timetable, particularly with the Death Star finally online.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Besides, the file was under "Structural Engineering":

“Two screens down,” K-2’s voice announced, as if he’d never stopped speaking. Cassian parted his lips and Jyn raised a hand, silenced him and urged him back to the controls. The catalog scrolled rapidly on her screen as the arm kept moving. “Structural Engineering,” the droid said. “Open that!”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Certainly it didn’t just cover the reactor, since the Rebellion was able to find the exhaust port shaft that lead to the reactor, which would probably be a feature of external schematics.

It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that the Empire had thousands of large projects. Besides Palpatine’s well-known obsession with superweapons, there were many smaller Imperial projects being stored and researched at the citadel. For example, the TIE striker seen in the film is such a project:

The military design think tank on Scarif is tasked with developing and testing next-generation designs, subjecting them to shakedown flights, monitoring their performance, and recommending whether they see widespread deployment. The TIE striker is one such experimental design.

Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide

We are talking about a military apparatus the size of a galaxy, after all.

The projects stored there are not all directly military in nature, either. There are projects that seem to involve mapping the galaxy, for example:

“Hyperspace Tracking,” she read off the screen as the arm whirred about the tower. “Navigational Systems, Deep Core Cartography—” The vault was arranged by subject, clearly; beyond that she hadn’t a clue how to search. Maybe there was an index somewhere, but Saw Gerrera’s training hadn’t prepared her to serve as a data librarian.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


Note: It might seem that the Death Star plans could only contain information about the superlaser, since there were also files on Pax Aurora and Stellarsphere, apparently mentioned as aspects of the Death Star:

The Imperial Energy Division was new, but it, too, operated under the umbrella of Project Celestial Power. In fact, each separate department of the battle station project had its own cover name and cover agency, and Galen wasn’t alone in working for a counterfeit division and having his research put to alternative uses. Scattered across the galaxy were teams of scientists working on conventional weaponry, tractor beam and hyperdrive technology, even hull cladding systems. Each project was concealed behind names like Stellar Sphere, Mark Omega, and Pax Aurora. But all those paled in comparison with research on the superlaser.

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel

However, the quote suggests that the projects were actually in military technology with direct applications to the Death Star (such as “conventional weaponry” and “hyperdrive technology”). As such, they could well have been classified as separate projects, ones whose development Tarkin was interested in for other reasons. Stellarsphere may have referred to the development of massive ships, useful for the Death Star, but mainly about worldcraft, for example. The Death Star plans, being a “complete archive,” may well have had information about these other projects, as well.

  • I don't think the first quote proves much. "Complete archives" sounds like it refers to that ten meter high library with lots of floppy disks to me. All plans about the Death Star are in that archive, but Jyn took only one floppy disk from that. I'm upvoting because the rest of the answer is useful. – b_jonas Jan 3 '17 at 21:46
  • @b_jonas - The library is definitely the data vault. And if “complete engineering archive” referred to some subset of those tapes, it would be odd to refer to it in the plural. – Adamant Jan 3 '17 at 21:47
  • "vault" can mean a secured room. The archives in that room could still be the whole bookshelf. – b_jonas Jan 3 '17 at 21:51
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    I'd like to point out as well that the thermal exhaust port would very likely be a part of the designs for the reactor and power systems, since those are probably the major source of the thermal energy that needs venting. In planning for power/temperature management, it would make sense for that set of the plans to include it, as well as a good portion of everything else on the structure that would be putting a drain of the reactor, without necessarily covering all of the details of the station. – Mwr247 Jan 3 '17 at 21:57
  • @b_jonas - I’ve found some more definitive evidence. – Adamant Jan 4 '17 at 23:26
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Not all, but enough where the details they have make sense

The second part of the answer to this question has some sources on the other project codenames, and in particular how some were for other areas of the deathstar. I'll include the relevant part:

The Imperial Energy Division was new, but it, too, operated under the umbrella of Project Celestial Power. In fact, each separate department of the battle station project had its own cover name and cover agency, and Galen wasn't alone in working for a counterfeit division and having his research put to alternative uses. Scattered across the galaxy were teams of scientists working on conventional weaponry, tractor beam and hyperdrive technology, even hull cladding systems. Each project was concealed behind names like Stellar Sphere, Mark Omega, and Pax Aurora. But all those paled in comparison with research on the superlaser.

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel Chapter 19: "Closed Interval"

Given that they needed a specific set of plans to find the weakness, it stands to reason that none of the projects contained the whole of the plans. Galen's comment about the complete archive being on Scarif was true, but it was in each of those pieces, much like how you might give your plumber and electrician different sets of blueprints.

Considering how systems related to power tend to be extremely interconnected with the rest of the layout (what on the death star doesn't require power, especially the super laser?), it makes sense that those plans in particular would still be fairly detailed within what Galen had access to and what they stole, enough to cover what we see.

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    While this is true, all the rest of the information seems to suggest that it wasn’t just the superlaser plans. Most glaringly, Tarkin speaks of “Stellarsphere” as if it were a separate project from the Death Star: It would be a special pity, Tarkin thought, to see War-Mantle and Stellarsphere set back. – Adamant Jan 3 '17 at 21:53
  • @Adamant His comment may refer to the use of the research for future similar purposes as well though (Death Star II for example), and not necessarily have been unrelated. I'd agree that it definitely wasn't just the superlaser plans they stole, but more likely a copy containing details necessarily for the "Imperial Energy Division" that included the general structure alongside power/thermal management. This fits with how they claim to have kept the whole project hidden from most teams, but how Galen (being in such an involved role in power/laser) knew more and had the details he did. – Mwr247 Jan 3 '17 at 22:14
1

None

We can see with our own eyes that Jyn Erso stole the wrong plans, and the dialogue in Rogue One where she guesses which record to steal supports this. Luckily for the rebels, they were close enough to the finished product that the same Achilles’ heel was there.

If you watch the scene in the movie where the pilots are briefed on the Death Star plans, you see this wireframe diagram:

Death Star Plans Wireframe

The first Death Star looks like this:

Death Star from StarWars.com

Those plans are not correct. One obvious difference is that the blueprints show the equatorial trench running through the middle of the main dish, whereas the real Death Star has its dish slightly above it.

Although Jyn guessed that her father chose his pet name for her, “Stardust,” as the code name for the Death Star plans, her assumption turned out to be only half-true. The plan codenamed Stardust, which she stole, must have been a rejected proposal to redesign the Death Star. It could not have been the original version, since we saw a blueprint by another designer in Episode III that looked closer to what was built. (If Galen Erso ever had a bastard child, he might have named the design the Imperial brass and bureaucracy and the rest of the committee got their fingerprints on after her.)

Real-world militaries now require codenames to be assigned randomly, precisely in order to prevent inferences such as this. Nazi Germany was much too on-the-nose with its codenames, so the Allies were for example able to guess that the project named after Wotan the one-eyed god was their single-band radar.

The Real-World Explanation

The CGI animation was the work of by Larry Cuba and others at the Circle Graphics Habitat at the University of Illinois at Chicago, later renamed the Electronics Visualization Laboratory (EViL).

The anonymous, unsourced claim made on Wookiepedia that the CGI was done at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and left uncredited so as to prevent the artists’ employers from finding out they’d done it on work computers is completely false. Larry Cuba does have a screen credit for “computer animation and graphic display,” although his collaborators and the university do not. The institution was fully aware of the project and uses the fact that it did the CGI for Star Wars heavily in its marketing to this day.

This documentary by Cuba describes the process. As he explains (at 1:15), the Death Star model had not yet been constructed, so he was working from a matte painting in which the dish was in shadow as his reference.

The historic PDP-11/45 that created the wireframe model of the Death Star is still up and running fully operational (with video of the old-school minicomputer).

Out-of-universe, and probably in-universe as well, the plans depict an earlier concept of the Death Star, different from what was constructed

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While I don't have the novelization to pull from, and I have only seen it once...I do recall Jyn and Cassian looking through the project names...when she comes across Star Dust...she says that's it. They then eject that project and proceed.

It would seem that they only stole the one project...however considering that Galen obviously named it, and wanted the rebels to find the weakness, one could deduce that everything the rebels would have needed to find the weakness would have been included in that project's plans.

  • Does this add anything to the existing answers? – FuzzyBoots Jan 4 '17 at 17:58
  • Yes, actually. Is there another answer that says they took a single project's plans? There are 2 answers that say Structural Engineering plans....or the archive contained all of the plans. But the question was, what did the rebels get. The answer based on what I remember from the movie was a single project's plans. – Rdster Jan 4 '17 at 18:06
  • {nods} I suppose that it looks to me like there were two answers that said it was a single project, with quotes from the books. – FuzzyBoots Jan 4 '17 at 18:11
  • I think you need to look again. One answer says they got pretty much everything, another says not all (but doesn't say a single project), the other does say a single project...but the quote even says that the Structural plans are a guide...NOT the plans that are needed. It's almost as if the Project plans were located in some kind of "sub directory", if you will, in the data archive. – Rdster Jan 4 '17 at 18:18

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