The STARSHINE (Student Tracked Atmospheric Research Satellite Heuristic International Networking Experiment) series of three artificial satellites were student participatory missions sponsored by the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).

Satellite description

STARSHINE-1 was a spherical satellite that carried nearly nine hundred small mirrors polished by students from around the world. Once launched, the network of over 20,000 students from eighteen 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.

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 satellite laser ranging. The satellites were built from spare flight hardware. Students participated by polishing the mirrors used on the satellites.


The STARSHINE launches were considered launches of opportunity; STARSHINE-1 was launched June 5, 1999 from from the Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-96, STARSHINE-3 launched on September 29, 2001 as part of the Kodiak Star Athena mission, and STARSHINE-2 launched December 5, 2001 from the Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-108.


Starshine 3 reached a fiery end in the earth's upper atmosphere on January 21, 2003. It had made 7434 revolutions around the earth since its launch.


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