Astromech droid

Astromech droid

NB: while the films are mentioned where applicable, most of this information is derived from the Star Wars Expanded Universe

Astromech droids (informally known as "astro droids") are a type of droid often encountered in the fictional Star Wars universe. Such robots are automated mechanics, doing many kinds of repair duties. Their primary function is astronavigation, back from the days before ships had their own navigational computers. Larger starships will usually carry a large complement of these in case of malfunctions or combat damage, although some starfighters (notably the X-wing, Y-wing, Naboo N-1, and Jedi starfighters), have an astromech droid socket. The droid assists with performance monitoring, astronavigation, target acquisition, flight data monitoring and in-flight repairs. Astromech droids have also (in the Expanded Universe and computer games, at least) been known to carry out light janitorial duties, and the films have shown several instances of hacking (called "slicing" in Star Wars) being carried out by such droids, although this may require special programming to be installed. Most astromechs are apparently able to communicate only in writing, conveyed via another computer system, and a special code of clicks, bleeps and similar sound-effects, also known as "droidspeak" (though voice modifications have been observed in the Expanded Universe). The likely reason is to conserve space that would be used, speakers for example are useless in a vacuum. Most human, humanoid or alien characters in the Star Wars universe seem to know the basic elements of this code-language, but for those who don't, protocol droids and special communication devices can be used to interpret it.

The most prominent example is R2-D2, but there are other named examples, such as T3-M4, who appears in the Knights of the Old Republic computer game series and existed some 4000 years prior to the films. The T3 series shows considerable likeness to the R2 series, indicating that astromechs have not been subject to great change with time. This, however may be retcon and is not strict canon, as it's stated in the Star Wars Essential Guide to Droids that the P2 series (the first astromech) was introduced during the time before the Clone Wars. Few, if any non-IA astromechs have been seen; the New Essential Guide to Droids confirms that IA has no serious competition in the astromech market and most likely has a near-monopoly on the production of the droid type. (Their competition, Cybot Galactica, has a near-monopoly on protocol droids like C-3PO despite IA's attempts.)

During the time period represented by the six Star Wars films, Industrial Automaton is by far the most successful manufacturer of astromech droids. They make the P2-, Q7-, Q9-, R1-, R2-, R3-, R4-, R5-, R6-, R7-, R8-, and R9-series. The R7-series is made specifically for use with the E-wing starfighter, while the others are for more general use. Luke Skywalker briefly owned an E-wing and its associated R7 unit, R7-T1. He never felt very comfortable with either, though, and soon abandoned them both in favor of his own T-65 X-wing and R2-D2.

In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, R4-P17 was the astromech droid attached to Obi-Wan Kenobi's Jedi Starfighter. Arfour met her end in the latter.

P2-series

The P2 droid was the first astromech droid from Industrial Automaton. It was a gigantic droid, resembling an R2 droid, but over six feet tall. The P2 had a non-retractable manipulator arm, and lack a vocoder of any kind, relying on a video screen and direct links to a computer for communication. The P2 was not very successful, but its run was made worse when IA was slapped with a technology infringement suit. They won out in court, but the bad publicity convinced them to retire the P2 line.

Q7-series

Created for use in the V-wing fighter of the Republic.

Q9-series

Astromech droid based on the R2-series.

R1-series

The successor to the legally-plagued P2-series, the R1-series was the first R-series astromech droid produced by Industrial Automaton. In order to save costs, the droids were housed in tall, black shells, recycled from the Mark II Reactor Drone series. R1 units typically serve as technicians aboard capital warships and large freighters.

R2-series

By far the most successful astromech droid design in the galaxy, the R2-series was the first true astromech produced by Industrial Automaton. The droid is much more compact than its predecessor, and can be equipped with a wide array of aftermarket tools and add-ons.

The R2 series was manufactured to fit perfectly into standard astromech sockets on military starfighters, including the Naboo N-1, and was the first droid released on the general market that adhered to these specifications. When situated in the astromech socket, an R2 unit can monitor flight performance, isolate and repair technical problems, and reroute power throughout the shipboard systems.

R3-series

Following the success of the R2-series, Industrial Automaton produced the R3-series. R3 units included a more advanced internal processor than the R2-series. They can be distinguished by their transparent domes. R3 units were programmed with detailed statistics on every military vessel in the Old Republic, and primarily served gunnery crews, security troopers, and naval officers aboard capital warships. Although exceling in these roles, the R3 was considered inferior to its predecessor as a starfighter astromech.

R4-series

In a successful attempt to sell astromech droids to Outer Rim inhabitants, Industrial Automaton produced the inexpensive, yet durable, R4 unit. R4s are programmed with a detailed knowledge of many general-purpose craft, including landspeeders and airspeeders, and excel at repairing such vehicles. While some R4 units possess the same domed heads as their R2 counterparts, many possess a distinct conical head.

R5-series

The R5-series represented Industrial Automaton's only real failure in the astromech market. While the most affordable of all astromechs, the R5 series lacks the R2's versatility and the R4's reliability, was prone to a variety of malfunctions and had a tendency to develop annoying personality quirks. Because of its limitations, the R5 series was quietly discontinued, although a large number of R5 units were rebuilt, primarily by the Rebel Alliance.

  • R5-A2 (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope)
  • R5-D4 (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode IV: A New Hope)
  • R5-D8 (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope)
  • R5-H6 (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones)
  • R5-J2 (Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi)
  • R5-K6 (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope)
  • R5-M2 (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)
  • R5-X2 (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)

R6-series

The R6-series was based largely on the R2-series, with numerous upgrades, including a more advanced navicomputer. Advances in technology, along with the fame of the other R-series droids, made the R6-series popular with consumers. The R6 unit has a similar head to the one on the R5 unit but has the other features of an R2 unit.

R7-series

The R7-series was developed during the Thrawn Crisis, to act as a dedicated counterpart to FreiTek's new E-wing starfighter. Although the R7 is considered to be the most advanced series of astromech droids in the galaxy, boasting a navicomputer equivalent to some small starships, and protection against power surges and low-level ion blasts, the droid is incompatible with anything but the E-wing.

One R7 unit (known only as "Fiver") was made compatible with an XJ-series X-wing by Anakin Solo, although it took extensive modifications to both the droid and the starfighter.

R8-series

Produced around the same timeframe as the R9-series.

R9-series

Seen in use five years after the Yuuzhan Vong war, the R9 series astromech is commonly seen deployed with the Galactic Alliance's StealthX starfighter.

Others

  • Choco (Star Wars: Droids)
  • G8-R3 (Stars Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)
  • KT-10 (Star Wars: Droids)

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