The first Death Star was in construction at the end of Episode III (presumably 19 BBY). The ending shot is this picture, with only small portions of the superstructure completed:

enter image description here

19 years later, the Death Star has only been recently completed (the novel Death Star places the completion about 1 BBY). So we assume it took about 18 years to build, and that's with tons of Wookies working on it. Fast-forward to Return of the Jedi in 4 ABY, and the second Death Star is significantly built, and is "fully operational":

enter image description here

They had learned from their mistake on the first Death Star, and had covered up the thermal ports. Presumably they did not just make a patchwork fix, but re-engineered that portion. Anyway, it seems unlikely the progress made on the second Death Star occured in only 4 years. Both Death Stars cost huge amounts of money and resources, and having two in construction would have been much more difficult to hide. So were both in construction at the same time?

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    Keep in mind that the propagator of the Death Star had a lot more power at his disposal around the time of the destruction of the first death star than during Episode 3. Effort doubling was likely employed. – Gorchestopher H Jun 22 '12 at 16:46
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    Perhaps Vader said "double your efforts" 3 or 4 times. – Gorchestopher H Jun 22 '12 at 16:53
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    @GorchestopherH: ...and then choked a few people for their disturbing lack of faith in his math. – gnovice Jun 22 '12 at 17:05
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    Prototypes/first batches ALWAYS take 10x (or more) time to build in manufacturing because you are also engineering them as you are making them. This was never a problem for me. I always assumed they learned a lot in those initial 18-20 years. – RLH Sep 5 '14 at 11:20

The second Death Star's construction started during the Battle of Yavin, when Emperor Palpatine ordered for the construction of new superlasers, to which the resources for its construction, including Hyperspace tugs and treadships, from its origin near Sullust to Endor via the Silvestri Trace, an obscure hyperspace route.
Ironically, he issued this order shortly before the first Death Star's destruction at the hands of Luke Skywalker.

Source: "The Essential Guide to Warfare", via Wookiepedia

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    Means, he felt that Luke was going to destroy Death Star.. – Captain Cold Jun 23 '12 at 1:56
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    And apparently he should have started a third. – Paul Draper Sep 4 '14 at 19:34
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    They did start a third. – Akiva Dec 15 '15 at 8:32

The original Death Star, as the first of its type, would have experienced numerous delays because designs never quite work out as their designers envision. Plus, the first time through, there is invariably a certain amount of development work on specialized production processes and tools as well as significant extra testing. evaluation, and training.

Once the inevitable glitches get ironed out, subsequent vessels can be built more quickly and cheaply. In addition, a full understanding of the construction process, gained by building the first one, would be a big help in knowing how to expedite construction by working on more things at the same time.

However, it would not surprise me if construction began on the second death star as construction of the first one neared completion. The Empire is large and even something like the Death Star is not immune to the Demon Murphy and his inevitable system failures.

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    Even with streamlined construction processes and knowledge/experience gained from DS1, it's still pretty impressive how quickly they put together DS2. After all, DS2 is over 5.62x the size of DS1 in diameter. They seemed to have focused on the key functional areas in order to get the station operational as quickly as possible, but even assuming they left out a quarter of the battlestation, that's still over 93x as much volume as the original. – Lèse majesté Aug 6 '13 at 21:14
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    yes, I'd see them more as parallel projects, competing prototypes for a new class of stations, the second taking even longer than the first to complete (much like the F-16 and F-17 (later F/A-18) which competed for the 1970s NATO lightweight fighter competition). – jwenting Dec 6 '13 at 7:14
  • @Lèsemajesté where do you get the DS2 being 5.62x size in diameter? aren't the diameters 120km and 160km? – user2813274 Mar 4 '15 at 16:23
  • @user2813274 According to the Death Star page on Wookieepedia, different figures have been given, with EU sources using the smaller 120/160 figures, but the fact books and behind-the-scenes stuff relating the movies give the 160/900 figures, which most evidence supports. – Lèse majesté Mar 5 '15 at 0:21

To add to many answers here, and add Legends canon info, the DS from the end of Episode 3 was a prototype. A skeleton and a laser was constructed, and then abandoned at The Maw research facility. DS1 was built later.

Note the prototype on the left

(...) a Death Star prototype had been constructed in order to test the design and it remained within the vicinity of the Maw Installation.




It took many centuries to develop the first successful aeroplane, but now it's a matter of a few years at most.

Pioneering is always more difficult than follow-ups.

The second Death Star was indeed the repaired and refurbished version of first one. It was deployed faster than the first one because its little improvements were nothing compared to the challenges the first Death Star would have faced. Remember, It was first of its kind.

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    Given the size difference and untter desctruction of the first Death Star, are there any sources to back up the claim that "The second Death Star was indeed the repaired and refurbished version of first one". – user20155 Feb 13 '14 at 5:05
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    Considering the movie shows it being blow up pretty spectacularly, I would say it was un-repairable. – The Fallen May 22 '14 at 2:23

Based on the new continuity of Rogue One () the (retcon) answer seems to be no. Consider the following from the film

  1. We watch Death Star I being completed. It's obvious the project is well behind schedule, since Krennic went to such great efforts to get Galen Erso back, whom he believes to be essential.
  2. There's a tremendous amount of uncertainty about the functionality of Death Star before it's tested on Jedah City.

Since it appears that Death Star I takes about 20 years to finish, it's unlikely they would have started another while the first was proving to be a boondoggle. Only once it's been successfully fired, do Tarkin and the other Imperial leadership see the value. It wouldn't make sense to have a second in the works with the first unproven.


The empire planed on having multiple "Death Stars", in operation, and had started the construction of the second death star before the first was destroyed. The destruction of the first caused delays on completion of the second.

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    Welcome to SFF.SE. Do you have any proof of your statement. This site tends to like answers that provide citations rather than speculation. – Skooba Mar 30 '17 at 19:20

protected by Skooba Mar 30 '17 at 19:20

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