APRIL 21, 1999
STS-96 LAUNCH SCHEDULED AT 9:32 A.M. EDT (1332 GMT) MAY 20, 1999

After some shifting back and forth because of a potential schedule conflict with a Delta launch, the STS-96 launch remains firmly scheduled for 9:32 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time (1332 Greenwich Mean Time) on May 20, 1999.  We’ll be posting launch schedule information here from time to time, but if you would like to keep yourself informed on a daily basis, go to or and look for the STS-96 launch listing.


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 of the integration process by NASA Goddard photographer Debbie McCallum and various members of the Starshine team. Click on the thumbnail images in this table for full-sized views.  In the first image, the spacecraft is shown fastened to its spring-ejection system by a Marman band.  The mechanical and electronic Hitchhiker subsystems  that will release the band and eject the spacecraft  into its own orbit are visible below the Marman band.  In the second view, Donna Mathews and some of her Takoma Park Middle School students are listening to Starshine Project Director Gil Moore explain the workings of the Hitchhiker ejection system.  In the third view, NASA Goddard’s Karl Schuler and NRL’s Russ Starks and John Vasquez keep a watchful eye on the Hitchhiker canister shell as John Pindell of Swales Aerospace (not shown) uses an overhead crane to lower the shell into position around the spacecraft.   After they bolted the shell to its base, they then installed a temporary lid 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.  Here is a full-sized image by NRL's Russ Starks of the installed Starshine canister, with its temporary cover in place.  Also visible on the right side of the image is a second canister, containing the Shuttle Vibration Forces (SVF-2) experiment that is being flown 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.  After Discovery has been erected into the vertical position on its firing platform in the Vehicle Assembly Building, transported on the crawler to the launch pad and covered by the Payload Changeout Room in the Rotating Service Structure, the temporary lid on the Starshine canister will be removed, and Starshine will be exposed in its canister in the cargo bay as it appears in this image.  The cargo bay doors will then be closed, and on the evening before launch the Rotating Service Structure will be rotated back out of the way.


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 (KSC) 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 in our next update.

If any additional groups of teachers, students and parents 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 have in mind for you to do on the day before and the day of launch:  Launch day minus one – Starshine attendees may drive to KSC and proceed to the Visitor Complex, visit the exhibits and Imax theaters, take a bus/lecture 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.) Look up details of the Visitor’s Complex  by clicking here,, so you can do some advance planning  Then, at 6:00 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on Wednesday, May 19, 1999, attendees should assemble in one of the Visitor Complex theaters that will be set aside just for Starshine attendees. (It will be suitably marked for our group.)  NASA Administrator Dan Goldin plans to welcome you and speak to you about his vision of NASA’s role in education for the next millennium. I’ll follow his remarks by introducing to you the fine people who labored mightily over the past couple of years to make the Starshine 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 with the number (719) 330-8102, so you can call me if you have problems finding our viewing area on launch day.



For those of you not able to attend the launch, we’ve made arrangements for you to be able to see some special Starshine launch coverage on television.  CNN will, as they always have, broadcast the launch live.  In addition, Miles O’Brien, CNN’s space news anchor, plans to interview a few of our students and teachers on camera at KSC that morning.  This prelaunch and launch coverage will be nicely timed for daytime viewing by our participating Starshine teams in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, Spain, Turkey, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Brazil, the Eastern and Central United States and Canada. However, our teams in the Western United States, Canada and Mexico will have to be early risers to see it live, while those of you on our teams west of the International Date Line  in Australia, New Zealand, Guam, Japan, China and Pakistan will have to stay up late on Friday, May 21, to watch it.


NASA plans to eject Starshine from Discovery into its own independent orbit at 5:58 A.M. Central Daylight Time (1058 Greenwich Mean Time) on Saturday, May 29, 1999.  Images of the event will be downlinked live on NASA Select TV.  We’ve also asked CNN if they would rebroadcast these images live, and/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 obtain telescopic images of the satellite from the ground and make them available to CNN  to rebroadcast just as soon as orbit geometry and cloud 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 on this web site labeled How to Track Starshine and Enter Data, read the instructions, and get your students out tracking the Russian Mir space station and 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.  To become an official Starshine observer, go back to the Starshine Home Page and fill out a form you'll find at the line entitled, "How to Track Starshine and Enter Data."  If you have questions, please send me an email.

Gil Moore
Project Starshine

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