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'Good Morning, Starshine'

Photonics Spectra
Nov 2001
After delays that included the threat of a Class-X solar flare, the Starshine 3 satellite was launched Sept. 29 from Kodiak, Alaska, atop a Lockheed Martin Athena 1 rocket. Resembling a 1-m-diameter disco ball, Starshine, which was built by the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington with the assistance of thousands of schoolchildren, is visible to the naked eye, enabling amateur observers to help monitor how the satellite's polar orbit decays over the next three years.

The students hand-polished the 1500 mirrors covering the surface of the aluminum sphere. The mirrors flash with reflected sunlight every two seconds. Starshine also sports 31 laser retroreflectors and seven clusters of solar cells, which power a ham radio transmitter. Three other satellites were launched from the platform at the same time.


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