Students from around Central Florida are eagerly awaiting the launch of the
Starshine 3 spacecraft today — they helped build the NASA-sponsored
satellite by polishing some of its 1,500 aluminum “mirrors.”

Launching on an Athena I rocket from Kodiak Island, Alaska, this will be the
second flight of the student-built satellite. Its one-inch mirrors were
machined by technology students in Utah, with the grinding and polishing of
the mirrors being accomplished by students in kindergarten through twelfth
grade in schools all over the world.

Students from Michael Martin’s fifth-grade classes at Sebastian Elementary
School contributed mirrors to each of the first three Starshine satellites.

“When the students look into the sky, they’ll think, ‘My name is up there.’
This made them interested in science and space again,” Martin said. “The
students helped with over 16 disks, this time. If NASA approves, we want to
help with Starshine 4 and 5, too.”

Thomas Sarnoski’s class at Osceola Magnet Elementary School in Vero Beach
also helped with Starshine 3. The fourth- and fifth-graders enrolled in the
Challenge Center, the school’s gifted program, polished two disks for over
two weeks.

“The students benefited from this project because they got to work as a
team,” Sarnoski said. “I don’t think they realized that they were
contributing to something so important-they were just having fun because
they knew it was a project for NASA.”

The Starshine 3 spacecraft is a hollow aluminum sphere almost a meter in
diameter (37 inches) and weighing 90 kilograms (197 pounds). It consists of
31 retro-reflectors and seven clusters of solar cells powering an amateur
radio transmitter, as well as the 1,500 student-polished mirrors.

Participating students will visually track Starshine 3 and log their
findings on the project’s web site at The
satellite will produce a flash every two seconds, and students will use
these flashes to track the satellite’s movements. The flashes will be
visible just after sunset and just before sunrise as far north as Point
Barrow, Alaska, and as far south as McMurdo Station, Antarctica. The data
collected will help NASA improve forecasts of satellite orbital decay.

The Starshine 1 satellite flew aboard Discovery in May 1999 on mission
STS-96. Starshine 2 is scheduled to launch aboard Endeavour on mission
STS-108 in November 2001. If Starshine 4 and 5 are approved, the knowledge
gained from the Starshine 3 project will be used in the design for these

Schools with questions about participating in the program may contact
Project Starshine’s director, Gil Moore at the Rocky Mountain NASA Space
Grant Consortium, 3855 Sierra Vista Road, Monument, CO 80132, (telephone:
719/488-0721; email: