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Jump to: Mission Objectives, Mission Instrumentation, Mission Parameters, Additional Information

Mission Photos:
STARSHINE satellite in the laboratory
STARSHINE-1 at NRL (Courtesy of STARSHINE home page)
STARSHINE-2 satellite and diagram
STARSHINE-3 satellite and diagram
STARSHINE-2 satellite and diagram
STARSHINE-3 satellite and diagram
Mission Objectives:

The STARSHINE (STARSHINE stands for Student Tracked Atmospheric Research Satellite Heuristic International Networking Experiment) series of satellites were student participatory missions sponsored by NRL. STARSHINE-1, launched in 1999, was a spherical satellite that carried nearly 900 small mirrors polished by students from around the world. Once launched, the network of over 20,000 students from 18 countries tracked the satellite through the glinting of sunlight off the mirrors and networked the data collection over the Internet. The students used the observations to calculate air drag, solar activity, and other orbit related properties.

The surfaces of these satellites were nearly covered with small mirrors polished by students for ground-based visual observation in twilight. Small retroreflectors were also being placed on the surface to support laser ranging. NRL has organized student-observing activities around the world to participate. The STARSHINE launches were considered launches of opportunity; STARSHINE-2 launched December 05, 2001 from the Space Shuttle and STARSHINE-3 on September 30, 2001 from a rocket at Vandeberg Air Force Base.

STARSHINE-2 and -3 also had a system to spin the satellite to improve the flash rate and included a few laser retroreflectors to introduce the students to SLR. The satellite were built from spare flight hardware. Students participated by polishing the mirrors used on the satellite.

Mission Instrumentation:

STARSHINE-2 and -3 had the following instrumentation onboard:

    • 858 mirrors
    • Retroreflector array
    • Cold gas spin system
    • 1500 mirrors
    • Retroreflector array
    • Amateur radio telemetry transmitter
Mission Parameters:
Sponsor: NRL NRL
Expected Life: 1 year 1 year
Primary Applications: Thermospheric research, student experiments Thermospheric research, student experiments
COSPAR ID: 0105401 0104301
SIC Code: N/A 4903
Satellite Catalog (NORAD) Number: 26996 26929
Launch Date: December 05, 2001 September 30, 2001
Decay Date: April 26, 2002 January 21, 2003
RRA Diameter:   31 cm
RRA Shape: circular circular
Reflectors: 31 corner cubes 31 corner cubes
Orbit: Circular Circular
Inclination: 39 degrees 67.048 degrees
Eccentricity:   0.000066
Perigee: 380 km 470 km
Weight: 40 kg 91 kg

Additional Information:

Web sites:


  • Kessel, R., "Development and on-orbit performance of moderate-cost spherical retroreflector arrays for the STARSHINE program", Presentation to 13th International Workshop on Laser Ranging, Washington, DC, USA, October 7-11, 2002.