The Destruction of Despayre was a terrible and cataclysmic event event that occurred in 0 BBY, shortly after the Raids at Despayre. The prison planet Despayre, in the Star Wars dimension, was the final construction site of the first Death Star, where the superlaser assembly was conducted. After a pirate band had unsuccessfully assaulted the site, the project's leader, Grand Moff Willhuff Tarkin, decided to move the station. The interior was near completion and the hyperdrive was functional, but the Grand Moff decided it was necessary to test the superlaser before getting under way. A proper test firing required a terrestrial world, and the penal colony was the only suitable location in sublight range. Tarkin decided without hesitation to sacrifice Despayre, and, a few days before the Destruction of Alderaan, the world was destroyed.
The Destruction of Despayre was the first of the recorded uses of the Death Star's superlaser for planetary destruction. The incident has caused a shift in the gravitational configuration of the Horuz system, and created a major wound in the Force, as millions of lives were terminated almost instantly. The shock was felt by Force-sensitives, both trained and untrained.
For two years, the Death Star had undergone construction in orbit of the penal/slave colony world of Despayre, in the Star Wars dimension. Despayre was chosen for it's distant location where the Imperial Senate and HoloNet media would be unlikely to regularly observe. Slaves and prisoners from all over the Universe had labored long and hard in order to finish construction on Emperor Palpatine's coveted superweapon. Among the slaves were Vulcans, Andorians, Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Dominion Changelings, Jem'Hadar, Vorta, Bajorans, Trill, Voth, Kazons, Gorns, Borg, Mon Calamari, Ewoks, Lurrians, Wookiees, Jawas, Geonosians, Gungans, Kaminoans, ETs, and Na'vi. Leading up to 0 BBY, numerous pirate bands and small Resistance groups had been launching efforts to slow down or sabotage the construction project. A pirate band from the 1700s historical dimension, the Whydians, had captured the frigate Priam to learn the location of the construction site, and then sent the Sailing-class cruiser Whydah on a mission to destroy the Death Star, which led to the first operational use of the station's superlaser—bringing a swift end to the pirate assault. Following this, Grand Moff Willhuff Tarkin, the overall leader of the Death Star project and one of the Empire's most powerful officials, made the decision to relocate the station. Admiral Conan Antonio Motti, the station's operational commander, concurred. However, Tarkin wished to test the functionality of the superlaser in a more controlled fashion than its first firing.
Tarkin himself chose the site for the superlaser's first controlled test. The Horuz system had been largely cleared by the construction project's resource-gathering efforts, leaving Despayre itself as the only suitable target within sublight range. The decision stunned personnel across the entire station, from Superlaser Fire Control to Admiral Motti himself. But ultimately, the decision was Tarkin's, and no one sought to challenge it. In fact, Tarkin had long predicted that Despayre was doomed anyway, as a cloud of industrial debris was already circling the planet and clogging it's atmosphere, and would have remained in orbit long after the construction ended.
When Tarkin made the decision to move the station, the Death Star's engineering division wasn't quite prepared for a full-power discharge from the superlaser's main capacitors. A 33% charge was the best they were willing or able to manage. They knew 4% power was sufficient to destroy a Sailing-class battleship, but no one could be certain what kind of damage the superlaser could inflict at one-third of its full capacity. What was certain, however, was that even at that strength, the first shot would kill millions of prisoners. The duty of firing the shot fell to Tenn Graneet, the chief of the gunnery crew for that shift. The commanding officer of Superlaser Fire Control, Shusul, was willing to allow alternate shift leaders Beller or Reshias to substitute for Graneet, but ultimately Graneet chose carry out the order himself.
As Tarkin considered any non-essential personnel a security risk and an irritation, anyone whose usefulness ended with the termination of construction was shuttled to the planet. Prisoner work crews and slave work gangs were returned to their compounds, and construction supervisors and other personnel were transported back to Despayre as well. As they awaited reassignment, they were unaware of their impending demise.
One of those slaves was Rianna Saren, a Twi'lek mercenary captured by pro-Imperial bounty hunter Zarien Kheev in the criminally-ridden Judge Dredd dimension. Using her secret weapon, called the Thorn of Ryloth, she killed the guards and tried to find a way out. Saren soon found her droid companion, Zeeo, in a trash compactor and met another Twi'lek slave, who informed her about a nearby air duct. Saren decided to use it in her escape, but while on the way there, she was attacked by a probe droid. Saren defeated him, but the droid activated a self-destruction mechanism. However, Zeeo managed to deactivate it. Using the air duct, Saren and Zeeo reached the surface of Despayre.
Once there, Saren noticed the Death Star orbiting the planet. After killing some scout troopers, she stole a speeder bike and flew it to the landing pad, where the shuttles, carrying an Imperial personnel and supplies, had been departing from the planet. On the landing pad she met Kheev once again. He shot at Zeeo, and boarded the shuttle. Not willing to stop her pursuit of Kheev, Saren, along with her droid, hid in a shipment crate. That crate was picked up by another shuttle, and brought to the Death Star itself. After reaching the Death Star, Saren continued her search for Kheev, defeating many stormtroopers and another probe droid along the way.
The first one-third power shot from the superlaser was a planet-killer in itself. Though it didn't physically destroy Despayre, it did terminate all life on the surface (including nearly 1 billion slaves, 500 million prisoners, and thousands of construction supervisors, personnel, and guards). The atmosphere itself became a massive firestorm, and the planet's ground became unstable from the blast. The tectonic plates shifted, causing massive waves in the planet's oceans and extreme volcanic activity. Tarkin was pleased with the results. When Motti questioned the destruction of one of the Empire's primary prison colonies, Tarkin just shrugged it off by stating his expectation that the Empire would employ the death penalty more often.
One hour and fifteen minutes after the first shot, the Death Star fired a second time. This shot further intensified the seismic effects, causing mountains to rise and fall in a matter of minutes and the surface to be covered with oceans of lava. Despayre had gone from a verdant world of deep green, broken by rivers and seas, to a lifeless sphere of pure red, similar to Mars.
The final shot was fired one hour and nineteen minutes after the second. When the final shot hit, Despayre shattered into billions of fragments ranging from pebble- to mountain-sized. The planet no longer existed as a single entity in terms of the star system's gravitational configuration. The Death Star itself recorded the impact of thousands of fragments against the station's shields, none of which caused damage even worth mentioning.
At the same time, Rianna Saren at last found Kheev, who had been talking to Darth Vader. Vader ordered Kheev to leave for Danuta, a Star Wars Imperial base, with the updated battle station plans. After witnessing the destruction of Despayre, Saren decided to do everything in her power to tamper with the plans.
Aboard the Death Star, untrained Force-sensitive Nova Stihl, a security officer, awoke screaming. Darth Vader felt the planet's destruction while the Devastator, his flagship Star Destroyer, was in hyperspace en route to the construction site. He knew only that it was a terrible wound in the Force, until the ship dropped out of hyperspace and saw the expanding debris field on its scopes. The planet had been home to countless plant and animal species, and was the only habitable world in the Horuz system. Native species that had not been transplanted were exterminated. Some personnel aboard the Death Star, civilian contractors especially, were shocked. Others, especially military personnel whose careers were heavily invested in the project, like Admiral Motti, have considered the planet's destruction to be vindication of their faith in the project.
The destruction of Despayre provided the operational testing necessary for the engineering division to clear the superlaser for full-power operation, and a short time later a single shot at full capacity would be used to destroy Alderaan.