MARCH 1, 1999

The Starshine spacecraft passed its vibration testing with flying colors at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC during the period January 27-29, 1999. Here are some images of the process, taken by NRL Photographer Michael A. Savell. The first shows John Vasquez, who is the Starshine Spacecraft Lead Mechanical Engineer, installing the completed spacecraft on an NRL vibration table. If you would like to see a full-sized view of any of these images, click directly on their “thumbnail” images. Here is the spacecraft sitting on the horizontal vibration table, ready for testing at frequencies from 1 to 2000 Hertz and at acceleration levels from 1 to 18 times the force of gravity. Students, teachers and parents from Longfellow Middle School, Edgar Allen Poe Middle School and Bishop Denis J. O’Connell High School in the nearby Virginia suburbs came to NRL to observe what it takes to certify “their” spacecraft for flight on the Space Shuttle.  

Here’s a picture of Bill Braun, Starshine Spacecraft Program Manager, describing the vertical vibration phase of the testing to some of those students, while Chris Butkiewicz, Starshine Spacecraft Deputy Program Manager (in the red shirt), awaits Bill’s signal to start the vibration table. Here's Bill again showing off the interior of our “flight spare” spacecraft (without mirrors) to another group of students while a Washington, DC Channel 8 video photographer records their reactions for the evening news.

NRL engineers re-cleaned Starshine, following its vibration testing, and transported it to a clean room at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Beltsville, MD. Students and teachers from St. Michael the Archangel School in Baltimore suited up in clean room garb and examined the spacecraft and its ejection system on February 11. The spacecraft was integrated with its flight canister on March 1, and students and teachers from Takoma Park Middle School in Rockville, MD observed the process. The canister will be installed in the forward starboard sill position, Bay 13, of Space Shuttle OV-103, Discovery, in the Orbiter Processing Facility, Bay #1 at Kennedy Space Center on March 10. Here are some images showing the cargo bay layout for the STS-96 mission.

 You’ll be glad to learn that NASA has decided to move our mission, STS-96, ahead of the STS-93 mission, so our launch won’t continue to slip into the indefinite future. The STS-96 launch is now set for 9:32 A.M. on May 20. We’ll keep you up to date if there is any change in that schedule. NASA Headquarters and Kennedy Space Center personnel are planning to set up a special area, just for us Starshine folks, on launch day. So, if you would like to attend the launch, please send me an email message at and let me know how many in your group will be coming. We’ll need to get specific names and addresses of all attendees later on, but right now, we’re just trying to get a head count to decide how big an area needs to be set aside for our buses and cars. We’ve extended an invitation to NASA Administrator Dan Goldin to come to our special area and speak to our Starshine attendees on the morning of launch. Given his interest in young people and in the use of the space program to enhance education, we’re sure he will make every effort to be there.
Now, on to another very important topic. We are sending out an email message to the 450 Starshine schools for which we have valid email addresses and a postcard to the 450 schools for which we do not have valid email addresses, in an attempt to get you all to read our Starshine web site (the one you’re reading right now) on a frequent basis. This site is the only place that we have for posting updates and instructions and for receiving your sighting data. We can afford to send out snail mail only this one time. If you receive one of our email or postcard messages, please acknowledge it with an email response to me at with a copy to my Utah State University colleague, Ted Meek, at We need to get everyone’s correct email address for our files, and we need to get all of you reading the web site.
It’s important for all you teachers and students to learn how to track satellites now, because it will take time for you to become proficient, and we’re now less than three months from launch. (Isn’t that an exciting thought?) We’ll be posting on our web site an observing data entry form and much more specific instructions on how to do the tracking in the near future, but for now, please go to the box below labeled Starshine Practice Tracking and start getting familiar with the basics. We’ll be updating the site much more frequently with schedule information and instructions from now on, so please check our site out every week or so.

Gil Moore
Project Starshine

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