From the beginning, Operation Skyhook was a thorn in the side of Darth Vader. The Emperor had assigned Vader to personally oversee the elimination of all Rebel agents involved in Skyhook. Vader came close many times, however the Rebel agents kept slipping through his fingers. Vader’s failure in this task would ultimately lead to what some call his downfall, and others name his redemption.
The idea for the Death Star began when the Confederacy of Independent Systems designed the Ultimate Weapon, using plans and concepts provided by Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin. Poggle the Lesser possessed the original plans, which he handed to Dooku during the First Battle of Geonosis. Dooku delivered the plans directly to Palpatine.
Once the Clone Wars were over, Palpatine shaped this idea for his own purposes. The information in the plans were developed into blueprints which were used as a basis for construction of the station, and, after the Death Star’s completion, the plans became a prime target for the Rebellion, whose members hoped to find and exploit a weakness in the superweapon. In large part because of this, the Empire split up the plans and sent it to various places of the galaxy to prevent enemy hands from acquiring it.
This ended up being a mistake.
The top-secret Imperial weapons project headed by Wilhuff Tarkin was hinted at by several high officials, including Tarkin himself, but its true nature remained unknown for some time. The first vital piece of information about the Death Star was obtained during the mission to Darkknell, which took place shortly before the signing of the Corellian Treaty in 2 BBY, during which Darth Vader captured the Rebel Leaders Bail Organa, Mon Mothma and Garm Bel Iblis and send them to the unfinished Death Star for execution.
There Emperor Palpatine revealed them the name and the purpose of the battle station before executing them, but the Rebel leaders were saved by Galen Marek, who sacrificed himself to allow them escape. As the construction of the Death Star drew closer to completion, Mon Mothma and Bail Organa knew that Rebels needed to obtain a complete technical readout of the Death Star. If their engineers could pinpoint a weakness in the battlestation, then the Rebels might be able to destroy it.
The Alliance set into motion the biggest anti-Imperial offensive it had ever attempted: a complex, coordinated operation to compile a complete set of plans for the Death Star and transmit it to the Tantive IV.
Operation Skyhook had been born.
And Vader had been its midwife by bringing the three major Rebel leaders together in a situation that forged the Alliance.
Now that the Rebels knew about the Death Star, the Emperor tasked his Enforcer and apprentice, Dark Vader with hunting down the Rebels and killing them. The Death Star could not be compromised and the plans needed to be protected.
For two years, Vader became obsessed with hunting down the Rebels involved in Operation Skyhook. Vader cut a bloody swath throughout the galaxy hunting down Bail Prestor Organa, Mon Mothma and Garm Bel Iblis. The 501st were his personal guard, tasked only with this one mission: save the Death Star.
Vader swore to his Master that the plans would be recovered.
The first success of Operation Skyhook was thanks to a smuggler named Han Solo. Captain Raymus Antilles secured the assistance of Han Solo’s smuggling skills. Solo, originally extremely reluctant to involve himself in Rebel affairs, was forced to comply after Antilles made assisting him the condition for rescuing him from Imperial custody over the surface of Corellia.
Solo undertook a mission to infiltrate the Imperial shipping facilities in the Vergesso Asteroids, planting a tracking device and EMP emitter in a cargo container bound for an Imperial research station in Corulag. The EMP successfully disabled the station’s defenses long enough for Rebel search teams to raid the station. The data they acquired “confirmed” the existence of the Death Star and gave the Rebels an idea of the scale of its destructive capabilities, but failed to provide any technical information with which a weakness could be identified. However, it did lead to the Rebels discovering that the Death Star was being constantly moved to different locations to avoid its discovery. This revealed that a convoy containing the Death Star plans was en route to Tarawa from Tarkin’s headquarters on Eriadu.
Another set of plans was stolen during an uprising at the Death Star itself. Nine prisoners, one of whom was a Jedi, broke out of Detention Block 2180 and created a diversion long enough for plans to be transmitted to a rebel base on Polis Massa.
This uprising was an embarrassment for Vader. He was scorned by the Emperor, and ordered to personally oversee the mission to stop the Rebellion. The 501st was removed from their post at the Death Star and began following Vader throughout the galaxy as his personal death squad. Vader became obsessed with stopping Operation Skyhook.
Vader became aware of another set of plans that were being smuggled to Danuta. He attempted to end this threat by sending agents to Danuta but the mission failed. The plans still ended up being transmitted to Rebel forces by Kyle Katarn, an Imperial defector.
At the same time, several Imperial Communication Satellites were stolen and smuggled to Cron Drift and the secret Rebel outpost called AX-235. These satellites were used to intercept the schematics for the Death Star from transmissions sent by Rebel spies. Biggs Darklighter couriered the schematics to the Mon Calamari Cruiser called Independence. From there, the schematics were transferred to Tantive IV.
With the success of all of the missions to recover the Death Star plans, the Rebels now had a list of potential flaws, blueprints of the superlaser system, and schematics that could be translated into a full technical readout of the battlestation.
Vader had sworn to recapture the plans for the Death Star but at every turn the Rebels slipped through his fingers. He had been responsible for bringing the Rebel leaders together, and essentially forged the Rebellion by accident. Vader had always been one step behind the Rebels. He had cut a bloody path through the galaxy and finally had the plans in his sights.
The plans had been transferred to a starship called Tantive IV. Vader decided to engage firsthand. He had information that Bail Organa’s daughter, Leia, was aboard the starship and in possession of the plans.
Leia Organa intended to deliver the Death Star plans to the Star Cruiser Liberty, but the sudden appearance of the Star Destoryer Devastator forced her to take a different route: Tatooine.
As Vader led a boarding party of the 501st against the Tantive IV, Leia decided to try to deliver the plans into the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi so that they could be taken to her father, Bail, on Alderaan.
With the captured plans loaded into the astromech called R2-D2, the Rebels now had a New Hope of defeating the Empire.
Vader would continue to pursue the Rebels to reclaim the plans for his Master. He would ultimately fail, becoming distracted by the reappearance of Obi-Wan and the emergence of Luke Skywalker.
Vader, in the end, would be defeated. Some see his defeat as redemption. Others just see the inevitable outcome of a man obsessed, promising to accomplish too much.