APRIL 8, 1999 

Integration of the Starshine spacecraft with its Hitchhiker canister was completed at the Goddard Space Flight Center on March 3, 1999.   Here is a series of digital images taken by NASA Goddard photographer Debbie McCallum of the various steps in the integration process. Click on these thumbnail images for full-sized views.  In the first image, the spacecraft is shown fastened to its spring-ejection system by a Marman clamp band.  (Satellite by itself)  In the second view, Donna Mathews and some of her Takoma Park Middle School students are listening to Starshine Project Director Gil Moore’s explanation (Gil with hands up.) of the Hitchhiker ejection system.  In the third view, John Pindell of Swales Aerospace operates an overhead crane to lift the canister shell into position (Him on left side) for placement around the spacecraft, while Bill Braun, Russ Starks and John Vasquez of the Naval Research Laboratory prepare to assist in the delicate operation.  Finally, NASA Goddard’s Karl Schuler and NRL’s Russ Starks and John Vasquez guide the shell into its final position.   After the shell was bolted to its base, a temporary lid was installed over the canister to protect the student-polished mirrors on the surface of the spacecraft, and the assembly was shipped to the Kennedy Space Center on March 4.



Following inspection to verify that no damage had been sustained during shipment, the Starshine canister was installed in the forward starboard sill position of OV-103 Discovery’s cargo bay on March 10.  Click on this thumbnail for a full-sized digital image taken by Chris Dunker, NASA GSFC Shuttle Small Payloads Project Director, of the installed Starshine canister.  Also visible is a second canister, containing the Shuttle Vibration Forces (SVF-2) experiment, that is being re-flown on this mission by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to measure the acceleration environment for canister payloads in the Shuttle’s cargo bay during launch and climbout to orbit.



NASA has rescheduled the STS-96 launch to 7:58 A.M. on May 24.  This change will probably complicate life for those of you making travel and lodging arrangements for the Starshine launch, but there’s not anything we can do about it, so please retain your flexibility and your sense of humor.  That’s just the nature of the space business.  We’ll keep updating the schedule as we get new data from NASA.   If you would like to keep track of the schedule yourselves on a daily basis, go to Florida Today’s excellent web site at and look up the STS-96 launch.


NASA is in the process of setting up a special area for Starshine attendees at the Static Test Road Viewing Site on the Kennedy Space Center on the morning of launch.   Several hundred of you have indicated that you are planning to attend, and we’ve forwarded your names and addresses to NASA Headquarters, so you’re on the accepted  list now.  We’ll be emailing you specific instructions on how to get to the Kennedy Space Center together with a list of suggested activities within the next few weeks.

If any additional groups are planning to attend, please send me immediately the full name, complete mailing address, and nationality of every person in your party.  We are rapidly filling our quota, so it is imperative that you email me that information at right now to keep from being left out.

Although our plans are still not “cast in concrete,” here is what we are hoping to arrange for Starshine activities at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on the day before and the day of launch:  Launch day minus one – Starshine attendees should drive to KSC and proceed to the Visitor Complex, visit the exhibits and Imax theaters, take a commercial bus tour of the Center, get something to eat in the cafeteria, and generally have yourselves a good time.  (Please remember that all expenses must be borne by the individual attendees or their schools; Starshine is a volunteer project, without any formal funds.)  Details of the facilities available at the Complex can be found at  Then, at 6:00 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), attendees should assemble in one of the Visitor Complex theaters that will be set aside just for Starshine attendees (it will be suitably marked).  We have invited NASA Administrator Dan Goldin and Senator Robert Bennett of Utah to welcome you and speak to you about their view of the role that space education can play in the future of the world.  These two gentlemen announced Project Starshine to the public in a press conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, in August of 1997, so it seems appropriate for them to speak to you on the eve of Starshine’s launch into space.  If their crowded schedules permit them to be there to speak to you, I’ll follow their remarks by introducing the fine people who labored mightily over the past couple of years to make the Starhine project possible.  I’ll also present a short review of Starshine’s  overall objectives and a brief  primer on  how we’ll be  tracking the satellite and computing its orbit.  We’ll be through with the formal stuff by 7:30 P.M., so you can then mingle with other attendees to your hearts’ content or go back to your motels and get a good night’s sleep.

Then, on the day of launch, you’ll drive back to KSC and report to the special Starshine viewing area.  Be sure to arrive a few hours before launch, because the roads into and within KSC really get jammed up if you wait till the last minute to get there.  I’ll be carrying  a cell phone (the number of which will appear here in the near future) so you can call me if you have problems finding us on launch day.



For those of you not able to attend the launch, we’re hoping that you will be able to see the event  “live” on television.  CNN will cover the launch live, and Miles O’Brien, CNN’s space news anchor, is planning to interview a few of our students and teachers at KSC that morning.  For our Starshine team members in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland,  Spain, Turkey, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Brazil and the eastern United States, the launch will be nicely timed at 11:58 A.M. Greenwich Mean Time (also known as Universal Time) on Monday, May 24.  Our team members in the Western United States, Canada and Mexico will have to be early risers to see it live, while those of you in Australia, New Zealand, Guam, Japan, China and Pakistan will have to stay up late on Tuesday, May 25, to watch it.


If the STS-96 launch occurs on May 24, 1999, NASA plans to eject Starshine from Discovery into its own independent orbit on Wednesday, June 2, 1999.  The exact  deployment time has not yet been determined, but it should be around 9 or 10 A.M. Universal Time.  We’ll post the predicted time here as soon as NASA provides it to us.  Images of the event will be downlinked live and should be visible on NASA Select TV.  We’ve requested CNN to rebroadcast these images, either live, or on a tape-delayed basis on the evening news.  Paul Maley, a renowned amateur astronomer who works at the NASA Johnson Space Center, will make telescopic images of the satellite from the ground available to CNN  to rebroadcast just as soon as orbit geometry and weather conditions permit.  We also expect that our international Starshine team will leap into action and start sending in your observations on the web site you’re reading right now.  To get ready for the big day, please go to the box below labeled Starshine Practice Tracking, read the instructions, and get your students out tracking the Russian Mir space station or the International Space Station.  It takes time to get good at finding, tracking and reporting angular positions of satellites, so please get started as soon as possible.  If you have questions, please send me an email.

Gil Moore
Project Starshine

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