Orbit: 294 miles (470 km), 67-degree
This orbit was chosen to make the satellite visible to observers
located from the equator all the way up to latitudes of 70 degrees
north and south of the equator.
Size: 37-inch sphere, 200 pounds (91 kilograms)
Characteristics and Instrumentation:
- Carried 1500 mirrors that were polished by approximately 40,000
students in 1000 schools in 30 countries
- Carried thirty-one laser retro-reflectors on its surface to
permit the International Satellite Laser Ranging Network to track
- integrated power supply (combined solar cells and thin film
- amateur radio telemetry transmitter
- a command receiver
- a rechargeable battery
- a secondary solar array
- signal-conditioning circuitry
- an antenna array
Made possible by: The Naval Research Laboratory,
40,000 students around the world, many volunteer organizations and
individuals, and NASA.
Re-entry: Starshine 3 burned up in the Earth's
atmosphere between 05:40 and 05:34 UT, January 22, 2003, after completing
7434 revolutions around the Earth. Solar activity shortened the
satellite's life by nearly a year.
What did the mirrors do? Sunlight hitting the
mirrors of the orbiting satellite flashed every two seconds. These
flashes were visible just after sunset and just before sunrise as
far north as Point Barrow, Alaska, and as far south as McMurdo Station,
The students who polished the mirrors helped study orbital decay
by tracking the satellite. Researchers at the Naval Research Laboratory
in Washington, DC, are using information from the Starshine satellites
to better understand satellite orbits.