Isn't the point of the Death Star that you can use its lasers to destroy any planet or capital ship nearby? Then how could the Empire use the Death Star if it has to stay close to Endor at all times, because its shield generator is there? It seems that the Rebels just need to wait for the Death Star to move away from Endor and render itself vulnerable.

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    i believe it was to shield it while building. once completed the deathstar would not have the "flaw" of the previous one and therefor would not need the shield. – Himarm Oct 1 '14 at 18:01
  • I think @Himarm is right, and he should put his comments as CW-answer, with a link to wookipedia – Kreann Oct 1 '14 at 18:11
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    @Deion: Why as CW? – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 2 '14 at 13:05
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    @Deion: I'm just wondering why you think this one should be CW. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 2 '14 at 13:55
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    @Deion If somebody else turned Himarm's comment into an answer so it could be accepted, that person should make their answer CW so as not to gain reputation from somebody else's work. But if somebody wants to convert their own answer to a comment, there's no reason to make it CW. – David Richerby Oct 3 '14 at 9:14
up vote 66 down vote accepted

The shield generator was temporary protection while the second Death Star was under construction.

Both Death Stars had built-in shield generators to protect against enemy capital ships but starfighters were not considered a threat in the design of the first Death Star. The first Death Star therefore had a vulnerability in an exposed thermal exhaust port which Rebel starfighters with proton torpedoes exploited in order to destroy it. This vulnerability was fixed in the design of the second -- the large thermal exhaust port was replaced with numerous smaller ports. Once fully constructed the second Death Star would theoretically be invulnerable to both capital ships (due to the built-in shield generators) and starfighters (which would not be able to launch proton torpedoes into a large thermal exhaust port as they did with the first Death Star).

However, the second Death Star was still vulnerable while its internal structure was exposed during construction:

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Starfighters would be able to fly into the incomplete superstructure of the second Death Star unless protected by a shield generator (which the Rebels did at the Battle of Endor). The built-in shield generators of the Death Star were evidently not complete, so the Empire built a shield generator on the forest moon of Endor to protect the Death Star until construction was complete.

  • This answer is more correct than the more upvoted, earlier answer. The full truth, however, involves aspects of both answers. You two might want to flip a coin for who gets to edit in the other's answer with their own, thus completing the puzzle. – James Sheridan Oct 2 '14 at 1:32
  • @JamesSheridan - I think our answers are essentially the same in regard to the question. Null's explication provides more information on the shielding scheme of the second Death Star, which is helpful, but I don't think the answers need to be combined. My answer provides a straightforward answer to the question, while Null's provides the same answer (the first sentence) with additional background. – Fatbird3 Oct 2 '14 at 23:18
  • This answer doesn't address the question of why it had to be on Endor. As a comment on another answer points out, why not put the shield generator right next to the Death Star in orbit? – jpmc26 Oct 3 '14 at 23:14

The shield generator on the moon of Endor was there to provide protection during the construction phase. Since the Death Star II was not complete, it wasn't yet able to generate its own shields like the original Death Star.

Once construction had completed, the Death Star II could move away from the moon under its own shield protection.

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    You would think they would build a shield generator early on in the construction phase, especially if such a relatively small unit is capable of projecting a shield both up to the DSII and around Endor – user30903 Oct 1 '14 at 18:24
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    I guess the "fully operational battle station" wasn't fully operational after all... – user111187 Oct 1 '14 at 18:28
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    @user111187 Trust me, 'fully operational' is a far, far cry from 'complete product'. – Zibbobz Oct 1 '14 at 18:31
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    Yep - my websites usually still look like crap by the time they're fully functional. The finishing touches come after functionality. – Omegacron Oct 1 '14 at 18:43
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    Why not place the shield generator in orbit inside the construction site in the first place? The generator would then be far better protected as the shell of the Death Star was built around it. Perhaps putting the generator on Endor provided an irresistible lure? Or the Emperor reasoned that the special ops team sent to Endor would likely contain high-level leaders he hoped to capture (including Luke Skywalker, whom he wanted to turn to the Dark Side). – RobertF Oct 2 '14 at 15:54

Nobody has mentioned this yet, but the shield generator being on Endor was also a trap.

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Battle_of_Endor

The Rebels were unwittingly falling into a trap devised by the Emperor himself. In an attempt to effectively eliminate the Rebellion, Palpatine planned on drawing the Alliance to Endor using simple disinformation: he hid the fact that the station's primary defense systems were already operational. With a large naval force hidden on the far side of the moon and an elite legion of Imperial troops standing by on the moon's surface near the shield generator, he was ready to crush the Rebels once and for all.

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    I don't think the shield generator on the moon was a necessary element of the trap. The Imperial troops on the moon were there to protect the shield generator but if the shield generator had been elsewhere (e.g. on the Death Star itself) then those troops would not have been necessary and the battle would have taken place entirely in space. The trap would simply have been the hammer and anvil of the Death Star and the Imperial Fleet. – Null Oct 2 '14 at 4:24
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    @Null I do think it was a bit silly to put the shield generator on the moon, but it did lead to the rebels splitting their forces, and I think it served as good bait. The Emperor could plan a counter-attack based on being fairly confident of the rebels' strategy. Edit: The ships were holding out for the shield to go down, not knowing that there was more defending those shields than a very small contingent of Stormtroopers. The rebels really lucked out on befriending the Ewoks. – Fodder Oct 2 '14 at 6:06
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    This is actually very insigthful - if the Death Star was already protected by its own shield, the Alliance wouldn't even try such a frontal attack. Providing the shield from Endor gave the rebels a pretty good fighting chance (arguably, to them, it must have appeared much more likely than with the first Death Star). Having shields on both Endor and the DS probably wouldn't work, because a secret like that would be in the open very soon (remember, there's millions of workers on the station), losing the bait. – Luaan Oct 2 '14 at 8:53
  • So why didn't the Emperor hide the fact that the Death Star had an operational shield as well, or at the very least hide the fact that the shield was far stronger than the original Death Star's shield? That would have made the trap all the more deadly. – RobertF Oct 2 '14 at 15:26
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    In Choices of One, a conversation between Emperor Palpatine and Grand Admiral Thrawn establishes that the shield generator is most definitely an integral part of the trap. Thrawn warns Palpatine not to underestimate the Ewoks as threats. – James Sheridan Oct 3 '14 at 2:46

The shields of the two Death Stars were significantly different.

The original Death Star was rather poorly shielded; traditional attacks from capital ships could be easily repulsed, but the shields did not prevent close-range (near point-blank) attacks. The shields also did nothing to prevent enemy fighters from entering the Death Star's "airspace;" in episode IV the Alliance fleet is able to pass directly through the shields with nothing more than minor turbulence.

As the second Death Star was constructed, fighter attacks were acknowledged to be a significant threat. Priority was placed on creating a shield that was strong enough to physically repulse starfighters. Generating such a shield required immense energy; additionally, the shield needed to be fully functional from the outset of construction. For this reason, the shield generator was placed on Endor while the building began in space.

This shield is the primary reason that the attack on the second Death Star could not begin until the generator on Endor had been destroyed. Such "impenetrable" shielding gave the Empire a false sense of security, and is the main reason that they never considered the second Death Star to be at risk.

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    +1 for noting that the shield would need to be functional from the outset of construction, which would preclude the use of an on-board shield generator. And welcome to scifi.SE. – Null Oct 2 '14 at 5:23

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