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 4/5 UPDATE - April 21, 2002

Image of Starshine 4 mirrors after receiving them back from polishing. We have inspected all the polished Starshine 4 mirrors received to date and have found 825 of them to be acceptable for flight. Here is a picture of the stack of boxes that came in prior to the March 31 deadline. Additional mirrors continue to trickle in from all over the world, so it looks as though we may finally receive enough of them to cover the satellite. If not, we'll use diamond-turned mirrors from Hill Air Force Base in Utah to finish the job. 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, 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. Please do not forget to send along your signed name sheets to
Starshine Headquarters, 3855 Sierra Vista Road, Monument, Colorado 80132-8216 USA, so we can scan them onto a CD-ROM for placement inside the Starshine 4 satellite.

To view a list of the schools and other groups that requested and received Starshine 4 mirror polishing kits, click here. You can see which of them have returned their mirrors to us, as of April 20, 2002.

We have now mailed to the Space Optics Manufacturing Technology Center of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, all the mirrors we have received to date.

We will make a final shipment in about two weeks, when the last of the delayed overseas mirrors arrive. Marshall optical physicists and technicians will apply a 2700-Angstrom-thick, transparent silicon dioxide coating to each mirror's surface. This coating will protect the surface of your mirrors from becoming converted into aluminum oxide by 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. Image of several mirrors in flat clear plastic holder.
We're going to release a 4 inch (10 cm) hollow aluminum sphere from the interior of Starshine 4, shortly after Starshine 4 is deployed from Space Shuttle Atlantis in January 2003. We're calling this subsatellite Starshine 5.

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: April 21, 2002