is the name of a project of satellites for examining the
of the atmosphere at high altitudes and involve children
Starshine 1 was deployed in June of 1999. This first incarnation
of the satellite weighed 87 pounds and was the size of a beach-ball.
It re-entered the atmosphere and burnt up on February 18th, 2000 at 15:08.
Starshine 2 was launched from the Space Shuttle Endeavor on
December 7, 2001 (it was originally scheduled for May 2001).
It has 845 mirrors, 31 laser retrorefectors and 2 micro-jet
thrusters (to start it spinning after it has been launched).
The most recent (though launched before Starshine 2) incarnation
of this project is Starshine 3 which measures 3 feet across and weighs
200 pounds. It was launched by NASA on September 29, 2001. This
satellite marked the first launch at the Kodiak Launch Complex located on
the Alaska coast.
Starshine 3 was one of four payloads launched from an Athena 1 booster:
U.S Naval Academy PCSat , another student project (Sapphire),
and PICOsat - a science project for the Defense Department.
The satellite appears to be a giant disco ball - it is covered with 1500
mirrors made by students and is spherical. Because of its shape and
high reflectivity it can be very closely tracked and follows a nearly
perfect ballistic course - no solar panels or uneven shapes to cause
drag. The combination of computer modeling and careful tracking allows
it to be used to determine the density of gas that it passes through
and thus creates drag.
Each orbit for Starshine 3 is about 292 miles above the Earth in a
region of the atmosphere known as the thermosphere. This area is
frequently trafficked by spacecraft including the Space Station and
space shuttle, though prior to the Starshine 3, few measurements have
been made of the gas density. With each orbit (about 90 minutes), drag
causes the satellite to drop a few meters, the exact amount is determined
by how much the satellite has slowed down caused by drag.
Starshine 3 is expected to slowly descend over the next few years. As
it does, the rate of orbital decay will increase. Once it gets into
the stratosphere it will burn up completely. If this happens at
night, those under it should see a bright fireball as it burns up
completely and reflects the light - bright enough to read by.
Starshine 4 is currently being readied. It is expected to be launched
in January of 2003 and will carry about 1000 mirrors. As before, these
mirrors are polished by students. As of January 20th, only 700 of the
1000 kits have been applied for.
Starshine 2 is predicted to burn up on June 29, 2002 (+/- 7 days).
Starshine 3 is predicted to burn up on December 10, 2003 (+/-35 days)
http://zapatopi.net/afdb/starshine.html (kook webpage - good for a