The orbital nightcloak was a siege weapon deployed by the Galactic Empire. It consisted of a network of hundreds of satellites orbiting a targeted planet. When placed in orbit around a world, the satellites would prevent all sunlight from reaching the surface, creating utter darkness and eventually turning the world to solid ice, killing all life.
A single nightcloak satellite resembled an umbrella. Crowning the satellite was a dome-shaped series of electromagnetic panels that concealed a discharge system. The nightcloak was propelled by a deployment thruster fixed beneath the cooling and discharge systems while the rectangular-shaped reactor core stood over the subspace transceiver and control computer cooling. At the bottom lay the sensor array and an oval telemetry node. It was modified from the visual electromagnetic intensifier to achieve the opposite goal.
The nightcloak system consisted of a network of hundreds of such satellites orbiting a planet. Each of these wreaked chaos and devastation on a planet by intercepting and distorting any waves of light and thus blocking any form of light energy whether visible, infrared, or ultraviolet from reaching the planet's surface. The captured solar energy was then used to power the orbital nightcloaks, making them self-sufficient.
The orbital nightcloak system was affected by a number of disadvantages including its wide scope and that its control systems were interdependent. If even one of the satellites was destroyed or disabled, all of the remaining satellites would be deactivated. In addition, the nightcloak satellite itself is fairly weak, as they can be taken down by either a single proton torpedo or even a single commando with a targeting missile. The Imperial Handbook implied that the reason why the nightcloak satellites had these flaws was specifically to allow the Navy to do the job of defending the satellites.
A newer orbital nightcloak would allow up to 10% of the satellites to be destroyed before the network shut down. The satellites also incorporated short-ranged weaponry, usually laser cannons and concussion missiles, to deal with attacking starfighters.
The orbital nightcloak was developed and active sometime before 0 BBY, and it was covered inside the official field manual for the Imperial Military, the Imperial Handbook: A Commander's Guide.
The orbital nightcloak was again deployed by Zsinj over Dathomir, holding the planet hostage until the inhabitants handed over New Republic General Han Solo. Solo escaped Zsinj's clutches and succeeded in disrupting the chain of the nightcloak satellites, saving the planet from being frozen.
At least one orbital nightcloak was destroyed by Rogue Squadron, which according to Wedge Antilles, they managed to take it down with just a single X-wing and a single proton torpedo. Antilles later noted this event while jotting notes into the Imperial Handbook, backing up the admission of it being vulnerable to being shut down from a single satellite's destruction. General Crix Madine, in reply to Antilles' footnote, also noted that they didn't even need to call in a Starfighter raid to destroy an orbital nightcloak, as a commando armed with a targeting missile is perfectly capable of doing so from the surface.
All remaining satellites were most likely destroyed by the Hapan battle fleet that arrived at Dathomir shortly afterward.
Sometimes dummy satellites were deployed as a countermeasure to the tactic of destroying or disabling satellites to stop the orbital nightcloak. The dummies would act as decoys that could be destroyed without affecting the system.
- X-Wing: Solo Command
- The Courtship of Princess Leia (First appearance)
- Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption (Model only, cut from actual game)
- Imperial Sourcebook (First mentioned)
- Planets of the Galaxy, Volume One
- Dark Empire Sourcebook
- Imperial Sourcebook, Second Edition
- The Star Wars Planets Collection
- The Essential Guide to Weapons and Technology
- The Essential Guide to Droids
- The New Essential Guide to Weapons and Technology
- The Official Star Wars Fact File 35 (ORB1-2, Imperial Orbital Nightcloak)
- The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia
- Star Wars: Imperial Handbook: A Commander's Guide