Note: The Sepember 25 launch of the Starshine 3 satellite has been delayed because of a Class-X solar flare. The next launch opportunity will be Thursday, September 27.
The Starshine-3 satellite was built with the help of hundreds of grade school students from around the world, Starshine will blast off into a 300-mile-high orbit aboard an Athena I solid-fuel rocket from the Kodiak Alaska Launch Complex.
Starshine-3 was designed and built by NRL's Spacecraft Engineering Department as a fixed-point satellite to help calibrate "The Fence" -- the Navy's space surveillance network that tracks the thousands of objects that are now orbiting the Earth. The one-meter diameter sphere carries a battery, a transmitter/receiver, solar cells, two antennas, and is covered with more than 1,500 mirrors. These mirrors were hand-polished by students around the world using diamond paste and sandpaper. After a protective coating was applied to each, the mirrors were sent to the NRL for installation on the satellite. Starshine-3 will also flight demonstrate a battery that is integrated onto a solar cell and a new, innovative lightweight satellite ejection system.
Once this satellite is launched, students will be able to follow it as it passes overhead by observing the sunlight flashing off all those mirrors. Precise timing of their observations will be used to measure the orbital decay of the satellite, and the density of the upper atmosphere can therefore be deduced.
NRL designed and manufactured the Starshine I satellite structure in 1998 for its mid-1999 launch and worked this past spring on the installation of student-polished mirrors for the Starshine 2 satellite, which is expected to launch in early December 2001. More information about all of the Starshine programs can be found at http://azinet.com/starshine/
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