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At the end of Revenge of the Sith we see this as one of the final scenes:

enter image description here

We clearly see that the first Death Star has most of the super laser dish constructed and a lot of the reactor core and super structure is in place.

However, in Rogue One, we see this:

enter image description here

This is the Death Star that we've come to know and love in A New Hope, so what is with the discrepancies between them? Was the one in Revenge of the Sith just a prototype, was the dish a placeholder and the real one was put back in?

  • 2
    Maybe they had to upgrade the dish to receive HD Holonet channels? Joking aside, I wonder if the Death Star we see in SW:ROTS is a prototype, as found in the Maw installation. – PhasedOut Jan 6 '17 at 18:43
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    When you make the Lego Death Star, you have to remove the dish halfway through so that you can put in the conference room. Maybe it's the same with the big one. – Valorum Jan 6 '17 at 19:03
  • Weird, I also remember there was a Death Star being built on the surface of a planet on one of "Star Wars Rebels" episodes (season 1 perhaps), was it just another prototype or a reduced version of it? Cannot find that episode though... – CPHPython Jan 6 '17 at 19:19
  • Retcons... Retcons everywhere! – void_ptr Jan 6 '17 at 19:24
  • @CPHPython Probably season 3's "The Honourable Ones". The spheres are described as "construction modules" and, though they're based on old concept art of in-progress Death Stars, it seems more likely that they're the "orbital construction domes" referenced in the Visual Guide and/or the orbital foundries mentioned in Catalyst – Jason Baker Apr 20 '17 at 17:26
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Same Death Star, different dishes

The Rogue One Visual Guide is quite clear that the dish we see being installed is the one that was functional:

enter image description here

Superlaser

After a long wait, a stable, operational superlaser assembly is guided into the Death Star superstructure and connected to the hypermatter reactor.

There are multiple confirmations that they're the same station, rather than one being a prorotype:

  • Hidalgo has said multiple times on Twitter that the Death Star itself took twenty years to get functional, not to build; for example:

    enter image description here

    @pablohidalgo There's one specific part that took years to perfect. It's not like it took 19 years to build the whole thing.

  • The Databank confirms:

    Even as the Clone Wars raged, the Death Star secretly took shape in space above Geonosis. Access to the former Separatist world was restricted, with very few in the Imperial hierarchy allowed to know about the battle station’s construction.

  • It's quite strongly implied in the Rogue One Visual Guide:

    enter image description here

    A Death Star Begins

    Using captured Geonosian plans procured by Palpatine, construction of the Death Star is secretly started over Geonosis, under the supervision of Tarkin and Krennic.

    Construction Over Geonosis

    Enormous orbital construction domes begin transforming the rocky rings of Geonosis into raw construction materials. A spherical shape beings to emerge.

    enter image description here

    Kyber Transformation

    The lack of a functional superlaser slows down the Death Star operation. It is not until Galen Erso is coerced to research kyber dynamics that progress is made.

    Final Fitting

    The final functional superlaser - created on Eadu - is transported to the Death Star where it is fitted into the superstructure. The Death Star is finally operational.

  • The canon novel Catalyst (the prequel novel to Rogue One) depicts a continuous construction process from 21 to 17 years before A New Hope (or from 2 years before to 2 years after Revenge of the Sith), and the novel Tarkin indicates that the construction was still ongoing by 14 years before the film (five years after Revenge of the Sith). It's hard to provide evidence for this without citing most of Catalyst, so you're going to have to trust me.

Whether the original dish was a placeholder or not is unclear, but Hidalgo's implication is absolutely clear: the dish we see at the end of Revenge of the Sith is non-functional (or, at least, non-properly-functional), but the one in Rogue One actually works.

  • With regards to "trusting" the answerer on his timestamps for Catalyst and Tarkin, I can be a voice of reassurance to say they're accurate (just to get a second person confirming the "fact") – Edlothiad Jan 16 '17 at 19:23
  • @Edlothiad I was referring more to the "continuous construction period", i.e. without scrapping the whole thing and starting over (though there is a bit of that in Catalyst so, y'know) – Jason Baker Jan 16 '17 at 19:25
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I don't think the dish is being "installed" as much as repositioned or configured. It could just be in the middle of positioning for maintenance, calibration or aiming. Moreover, I would imagine that being able to remove or at least create a space to work behind it would be important to its development.

But here's a little more context around the dish's use and capabilities from Catalyst:

The plan, in any case, called for assembling the dish in space and maneuvering it by tug and tractor beam into the gargantuan well that had been framed into the sphere’s upper hemisphere—the dimple, as some referred to it. The parabolic dish also had to be engineered to telescope away from the hull to facilitate the aiming of the composite beam proton superlaser some of the Special Weapons scientists were proposing.

So really, the fact that the dish was "popped out" at the time of the scene might have nothing to do with it being "under construction" at all. And I think the image from Revenge is the "gargantuan well" that this is referring to.

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I don't think the concave portion of the Death Star shown a the end of ROTS is a dish at all - rather, it is merely the framework which is ultimately going to support the actual dish when it is installed. [That's why it has holes in it.]

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