The roots for Operation Stardust begin during the Battle of A Baoa Qu. The Delaz Fleet, led by Aiguille Delaz, retreats from the battle after their leader Gihren Zabi is assassinated by his sister Kycilia Zabi. Delaz, in his thirst for revenge against the victorious Federation, retreats with his forces to the Garden of Thorns.
The main goal of Operation Stardust was to expose the corruption of the Earth Federation and to weaken its authority over the Earth Sphere. As Delaz himself stated, the ultimate goal of the operation was to give rise to a new Zeon. Recognizing that the Delaz Fleet alone could not take on the might of the full Federation, Stardust would be carried out in three steps.
Phase 1-Stealing the RX-78GP02A
The first phase of Operation Stardust involved stealing the Earth Federation's newest Gundam model, the RX-78GP02A Gundam "Physalis" . Zeon intelligence had learned that the Federation was developing new Gundam mobile suits in case any remaining Zeon forces were planning an attack. Gundam GP02A was designed specifically for tactical warfare, being armed with a deadly Mk.82 nuclear warhead. This would expose the fact that the Earth Federation had broken the Antarctic Treaty. The Delaz Fleet used OYW ace pilot Anavel Gato and Anaheim Electronics spy Nick Orville to infiltrate the Federation's base in Torrington, Australia. The Physalis and its sister unit, the RX-78GP01 Gundam "Zephyranthes", arrived at the Torrington base on 7 October UC 0083 on board the Pegasus-class assault carrier Albion. There, Gato was to sneak onto the warship and steal the Physalis after the nuclear warhead was installed. Gato successfully stole the mobile suit and escaped the base with it, despite being involved in a minor scuffle with Gundam Unit 1, piloted by rookie pilot Kou Uraki. Gato was aided by three MS-09/trop Dom Tropens and one YMS-16M Xamel. The Albion crew lost a RGM-79C Powered GM as well as a MS-06F2 Zaku II F2. Over the next week Gato is pursued by mobile suit forces from the Albion, but escapes the Australian continent on a Zeon submarine. From there, Gato arrived at the Kimberlite Base in Africa. Base commander Neuen Bitter provided Gato with an HLV transport to launch the stolen Gundam into space. Despite a ferocious attack from the Albion, Neuen Bitter's forces held off the Albion long enough for Gato and the Physalis to successfully leave Earth.
With Gundam Unit 2 successfully delivered to space, Admiral Delaz sought the help of the mysterious Zeon ace pilot Cima Garahau and her notorious Cima Fleet. Despite the suspicions raised by Gato, Delaz explained that they would need Cima's forces to assist in Operation Stardust. While Cima's forces intercept the Moon-bound Albion, Delaz, with Gato at his side, broadcasts a speech throughout the Earth Sphere, stating the Delaz Fleet's declaration of war against the Earth Federation. The next phase of Operation Stardust involves using the stolen Gundam to attack the Earth Federation at their Naval Review. Launching in Physalis, Gato dashes towards Solomon then climbs above Konpei Island (new name for Solomon). Gato fires the warhead destroying the Birmingham and over two-thirds of the Federation Space Fleet. After the firing, Gato is intercepted again by Uraki, who is now piloting the upgraded Zephyranthes Full Burnern. Both pilots lose their respective mobile suits, but not before Gato confronts Uraki outside of their cockpits.
Phase 3-Colony Drop on North America
Almost immediately after the attack on Konpei Island, the Cima Fleet sets out to hijack Islands Ease and Blade of Side 1. The final phase of Operation Stardust is to aim both colonies towards the Moon, making it appear as though Zeon was attacking the city of Von Braun. However, the real plan was to bounce Ease off of Blade and send the former crashing into Earth, specifically central North America where a majority of the Federation's food is produced. The Axis Advance Fleet delivers Anavel Gato the powerful mobile armor AMX-002 Neue Ziel Gato attacks the pursuing Federal Forces with the Neue Ziel's immense power, however he is intercepted by Uraki, this time piloting the massive RX-78GP03 Gundam "Dendrobium Orchis" in an attempt to redirect the colony from Earth. The pursuing forces are unable to stop Ease from entering Earth's gravity well. The operation is put in grave danger when Cima's forces betray the Delaz Fleet and Cima personally assassinates Delaz on his Gwazine-class. Witnessing this, Gato crushes the bridge attempting to kill Cima, but she escapes in her new AGX-04 Gerbera Tetra. Even worse for the operation, the Federation has constructed an updated version of the Solar System to destroy the colony with Bask Om in charge. However, Gato destroys the control ships and weakens the weapon's effectiveness. Gato then boards Island Ease to adjust its trajectory but is stopped by former lover Nina Purpleton and critically shot in the abdomen by Uraki. Nina, however, shoots at Kou and departs the colony with Gato. In anger, Uraki takes his Orchis unit and destroys the Cima Fleet before pursuing the falling colony. Gato and Uraki have one final showdown in the Earth's atmosphere before the Solar System fires again in their path. Island Ease successfully hits the North American continent. Despite the success of the operation, the Zeon forces lose Gato, who performed a kamikaze into a Salamis-Kai. It is speculated that there were few survivors of Operation Stardust.
Operation Stardust was successful in hitting the North American continent, which temporarily deprived the Earth Federation of its food supply. However, it ironically turned out to be more to the benefit of the Federation rather than Zeon's. Rather than the revival of Zeon, the events of Operation Stardust lead to the Earth Federation founding theTitans
It should be noted that Delaz's claim of Federation's corruption was proven to be true, albeit largely because of the devastation caused by Operation Stardust as part of a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, in the Gryps Conflict, as a result of multiple insurgencies and attempt to revive Zeon, the Federation became more aggressive against Spacenoids as a whole. The Federation's reliance on the Titans and blind-eye towards their brutal methods showed that it greatly desired extending and maintaining its totalitarian control over the autonomous space colonies, Spacenoids, and dissident Earthnoids, resulting in the crusade led by Gato and Delaz to ultimately go down in history as more harmful than helpful to the legacy of Zeon.
It should be noted that these series of events start the gradual decline of the Federation as shown in the late UC era where Federation is but a shadow of its former self.
In the end, Delaz's idea of a new Zeon did not come true, as all future Neo Zeon movements led by Haman Karn, Char Aznable and Full Frontal were unsuccessful. The first movement was stopped by a revived AEUG, and the second and third by Londo Bell.
- The earlier episodes in Gundam SEED Destiny's story were loosely based on this conflict. That is, there were hijacked Gundams, pursuit of the stolen Gundams, a colony drop, and the declaration of war following a similar pattern to that of Zeta Gundam's Gryps Conflict.
- Due to Delaz's declaration of war against Earth Federation, some fans consider Operation Stardust as a Second Zeon War of Independence. But this is inaccurate, as the Republic of Zeon was then an autonomous side (albeit supervised by the Earth Federation), and that Delaz's Fleet was not officially part of the Republic's armed forces. Instead, it was only one of the remaining fleets of the former Principality of Zeon which refused to surrender to Earth Federation after the signing of Treaty of Granada; which officially ended the One Year War (i.e. the true Zeon War of Independence).
- Yet, it was Delaz's declaration of war which inspired Zeon remnants, mostly concentrated at Axis and several other colonies, to start other attempts at reviving the Principality, or at least the ideals of Zeon. Such attempts were best demonstrated by the three Neo Zeon Wars within the years of UC 0088-0096.