Image of John Vasquez of the Naval Research Laboratory John Vasquez of the Naval Research Laboratory prepares Starshine 1 for vibration test. Photo by
Michael A. Savell.

Starshine 3 Update - December 12, 2002

You have only about one more month to see mirror flashes from the Starshine 3 satellite, before its orbit decays and the satellite burns up in the atmosphere high above the earth. Jon Boers of the Naval Network and Space Operations Command in Dahlgren, VA and Harro Zimmer of Berlin, Germany, tell us that the satellite should come to the end of its orbital life in mid-January, 2003. Here is a link to their latest predictions. And here is a current plot of the way Starshine 3's orbit has decayed since its launch on September 29, 2001 Click here: Starshine 3 - Orbit Decay

To find out when Starshine 3 will be visible at morning or evening twilight in your area, click here to go to, click on the heading entitled "Select from our giant data base," click on the name of your country, type in the name of your community, click on the "Submit" button, look for the "Starshine 3" heading, then click on the highlighted blue statement "Visible Passes for the Next 10 days." The satellite is no longer spinning, because of its interaction with the earth's magnetic field, so you may see only one or two flashes as the satellite passes across the sky. However, it's still interesting to realize that the flashes you're seeing are coming from small aluminum mirrors polished by children all over the world.

Just to refresh your memory, here's an image of the Starshine 3 satellite sitting on its Athena payload upper deck, shortly before its launch from Kodiak, Alaska, on September 29, 2001. Starshine 3 is the large black sphere, carrying 1500 student-polished mirrors on its surface, that is mounted in the center of the payload upper deck. The other three satellites in the image were the responsibility of the U.S. Air Force Space Test Program at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico. Image of satellite
Click here for larger image

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Last Updated: December 13, 2002