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 30, 2002

Image of Starshine 4 mirrors after receiving them back from polishing. We have finally received enough polished mirrors to cover the Starshine 4 satellite. Here is a picture of a stack of the boxes in which you shipped your mirrors back to us. 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 May 1, 2002.

We have already shipped nearly all the received mirrors to the Space Optics Manufacturing Technology Center of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

We will make a final shipment to them on May 6, when the last of the delayed overseas mirrors are scheduled to 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.
Image of Starshine 5 prototype 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. Here is a picture of an unfinished prototype of Starshine 5 that is under construction by Skip Dopp of the Bridgerland Applied Technology Center.

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. On the other hand, 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.

The Starshine 4 / 5 Logo courtesy of Mary Helen Gregory of Praxis, Inc.

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Last Updated: April 30, 2002