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.


Please finish your mirrors and put them in the mail to Starshine Headquarters AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. We will inspect them and select one mirror from each returned box for the Starshine 4 satellite. We do not expect to receive polished mirrors back from more than 60% of the 1000 schools and other groups that requested Starshine 4 mirror kits, based on past experience, so we hope that most of the groups that do respond will send us two polished mirrors, as requested in the instructions. We will use the best of the extra mirrors to complete the satellite. AS OF APRIL 7, WE HAVE RECEIVED ONLY 657 USABLE MIRRORS, SO WE STILL HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO.

If you are in an overseas school that received its kit late because of shipping delays that were encountered between the U.S. and your country, we will make a special extension to the deadline. Please send an email to to let us know when you received your kit and when you expect to get your polished mirrors into the mail.

Phyllis Moore Scanning Names Please do not forget to send along your signed name sheets to Starshine Headquarters, 3855 Sierra Vista Road, Monument, Colorado 80132-8216 USA, so Phyllis Moore can scan them onto a CD-ROM, as she is doing here, for placement inside the Starshine 4 satellite. To view a list of the schools and other groups participating in the Starshine 4/5 mission, click here.

In the middle of April, we'll take your polished mirrors to the Space Optics Manufacturing Technology Center of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the application of a thin, clear, protective silicon dioxide coating. The coating's actual thickness is 2700 Angstroms, which is one-half wavelength of the light you used to measure the flatness of your completed mirrors. This coating will protect the surface of your mirrors from becoming converted into aluminum oxide by reacting with atomic

oxygen that exists at the altitudes at which the Starshine satellites orbit the earth. Aluminum is 10 per cent more reflective than aluminum oxide in visible light, and we need all the help we can get to make your tiny mirrors reflect enough sunlight to be seen up to 1000 miles away in the twilight sky. The other purpose of this coating is to protect the surfaces of your mirrors while we're handling them in the mirror installation and satellite testing processes. NASA optical physicist Vince Huegele is shown here displaying a rack of coated mirrors.

NASA has firmly manifested our Starshine 4/5 dual-satellite experiment on the STS-114 Shuttle mission to the International Space Station in January of 2003. Our mirror placement expert, Doug Winfield of Seneca, South Carolina, has

Image of several mirrors in flat clear plastic holder.
improved the hole drilling pattern on this satellite, so we'll be able to mount 1000 mirrors and 31 laser retroreflectors on its external shell. Skip Dopp of the Bridgerland Applied Technology College in Logan, Utah, has obtained spun aluminum structural hemispheres for this satellite, and his team has started drilling mirror mounting holes in them. The team is also machining some of the spacecraft's internal structural components and retroreflector mounts, as well as the shell of the Starshine 5 subsatellite.

We have recently changed our plans for the Starshine 4/5 mission. Instead of releasing an inflatable balloon from inside the Starshine 4 satellite, we're going to release a 4 inch (10 cm) hollow aluminum sphere, instead, which we'll name Starshine 5. This small subsatellite will be released shortly after Starshine 4 is deployed from Space Shuttle Atlantis in January 2003. Both Starshines 4 and 5 will carry 31 laser retroreflectors on their surfaces and will be tracked by the International Satellite Laser Ranging Network (ISLR) and the U.S. Space Command. In addition, Starshine students will visually track the faint flashes of sunlight reflecting from 1000 polished mirrors mounted on the surface of Starshine 4. All these data will be combined to determine the orbit of Starshine 4. Starshine 5 will have no mirrors and will thus not be naked-eye visible, so we will depend totally on ISLR and Space Command tracking for orbit determination of this satellite. By comparing the orbital decay rates of Starshines 4 and 5, it will possible for us to determine the density of the earth's atmosphere more precisely than we've been able to do on previous missions.

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Last Updated: March 21, 2002