With less than a month to go until Rogue One: A Star Wars Story's release, anyone who's watched at least one preview for the movie understands the basic premise. A team of Rebels have been sent to steal the Death Star plans, the Imperial antagonists will do whatever it takes to stop them, etc. However, it won't just be the gigantic space station that will be in the Rebellion's scopes during the movie. The intergalactic freedom fighters will also be targeting a key Imperial military base on a planet called Scarif.
In the more recent Rogue One trailers, there's a quick shot of some X-Wings attacking a wheel-shaped space station hovering over a planet (seen above). EW's latest coverage of the Anthology spinoff revealed that the station is called the Shield Gate, and it's responsible for protecting Scarif, which is described as being the Star Wars version of Los Alamos, the town where the U.S. developed the first nuclear bomb during World War II. In Scarif's case, the Empire's work there spreads across the entire planet, making it necessary to cover the world with a force field. According to Rogue One co-producer John Swartz:
You can see the blue sheen surrounding the entire planet. The shield gate is the security. As Imperial ships and cargo comes through, it punches a hole in the shield so they can pass. The gate officer gives clearances as they give out their call signs.
It goes without saying that the Empire has a lot of military bases spread across the galaxy, but Scarif will prove especially integral in Rogue One. As part of the "Imperial security complex," Ben Mendelsohn's Orson Krennic runs the operation there, meaning that Scarif is almost certainly the same tropical planet seen in previews and photos where the Empire is up to no good. However, just because the Death Star also plays an important part in Rogue One doesn't mean that it has any history with Scarif. Swartz continued:
It's part of their military industrial complex. It's not necessarily where the Death Star was constructed, but a lot of military research goes on there. That's why Krennic spends time there. It's the site of research, structural engineering, munitions and manufacturing, all rolled into one facility.
By the time Rogue One kicks off, the Death Star will be nearly 100% completed, so even if Scarif was a location where construction on the space station happened, it will be too late for the Rebels to conduct any effective sabotage on that front. Nevertheless, there's still other important work being conducted at this facility, and judging by the comments above and what's been shown in the trailers, it looks like Scarif will be one of the main battlegrounds in the movie, both on the surface and in space.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on December 16.