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Starlette and Stella

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

NamesSatellite de taille adaptée avec réflecteurs laser pour les études de la terre
Mission typeScientific
Harvard designation1975-010A
COSPAR ID1975-010A
SATCAT no.7646
Spacecraft properties
Launch mass47 kg (104 lb)
Start of mission
Launch date6 February 1975, 16:35 (1975-02-06UTC16:35Z) UTC
RocketDiamant BP4
Launch siteGuiana Space Centre
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeLow Earth
Perigee altitude812 km (505 mi)
Apogee altitude1,114 km (692 mi)
Inclination49.83 degrees
Period104 minutes
Mission typeScientific
Harvard designation1993-061B
COSPAR ID1975-010A
SATCAT no.22824
Spacecraft properties
Launch mass48 kg (106 lb)
Start of mission
Launch date26 September 1993, 01:45:00 (1993-09-26UTC01:45Z) UTC
RocketAriane 4
Launch siteGuiana Space Centre
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeLow Earth
Perigee altitude804 km (500 mi)
Apogee altitude812 km (505 mi)
Inclination98.68 degrees
Period101 minutes

Starlette (Satellite de taille adaptée avec réflecteurs laser pour les études de la terre,[1][2] or lit.'Satellite of suitable size with laser reflectors for studies of the earth') and Stella are nearly identical French geodetic and geophysical satellites. Starlette was launched on 6 February 1975 and Stella on 26 September 1993. Starlette was the first passive laser satellite developed.


Starlette's development dates back to at least 1972, when scientists at the Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES) were trying to determine a payload for the upcoming first flight of the new Diamant BP4 rocket.[3] After consulting with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, CNES scientists decided to create a small geodetic satellite optimized for tracking by laser ranging.[3] The project was approved within a few months after a feasibility study by the French atomic agency CEA determined uranium was not necessary to power the satellite.[3]

The Groupe de recherches en géodésie spatiale (GRGS; Space Geodesy Research Group) first proposed Stella to provide coverage for areas missed by Starlette.[4]

Spacecraft design

Starlette and Stella are nearly identical, small spherical spacecraft measuring 24 centimetres (9.4 in) in diameter.[2] With masses of 47 kilograms (104 lb) and 48 kilograms (106 lb) respectively, the satellites are quite dense.[2] This high-density spherical design reduced the drag effect of aerobraking on the satellites as they exited Earth's atmosphere. Both satellites are covered in 60 laser retroreflectors.[1][2]

Mission and results

Starlette was launched on 6 February 1975 at 16:35 UTC[5] by a Diamant BP4 rocket from the B launch pad at the Guiana Space Centre in Korou, French Guiana.[1][2][6] It was the first flight of a Diamant BP4 launch vehicle.[1][3]

Stella was launched on 26 September 1993 at 01:45:00 UTC[5] by an Ariane 4 (Ariane 40 H-10) rocket from the ELA-2 launch pad at the Guiana Space Centre as part of a payload also containing the satellites SPOT-3, KITSAT-2, Itamsat, Eyesat-1, PoSAT-1, and Healthsat 2.[1][2][7] The payload was located in the top part of the Ariane rocket's third stage.[1]

In the 1980s, data gathered by Starlette was used to develop a model of global ocean tides.

Legacy and status

Starlette was the first passive laser satellite developed.[3] The twin American geodetic satellites LAGEOS followed it not long after in 1976.[3]

Both satellites were in orbit as of 2021.[1] They are expected to remain in orbit up to 2000 years and to remain trackable for many decades or centuries.[3][4]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kramer, Herbert J. (2002). Observation of the Earth and its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors (4th ed.). Berlin: Springer Verlag. ISBN 3-540-42388-5. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Krebs, Gunther. "Starlette / Stella". Gunther's Space Page. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Barlier, François; Lefebvre, Michel (2001). "A new look at planet Earth: Satellite geodesy and geosciences". In Bleeker, Johan A. M.; Geiss, Johannes; Huber, Martin C. E. (eds.). The Century of Space Science (PDF). Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 1623–1651. ISBN 978-94-010-0320-9. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  4. ^ a b "STELLA - The centimetre over centuries". Small Satellites Home Page (SSHP). 1995. Archived from the original on 18 April 2013.
  5. ^ a b McDowell, Jonathan. "Launch Log". Jonathan's Space Reprot. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  6. ^ Wade, Mark. "Starlette". Astronautix. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  7. ^ Wade, Mark. "STELLA". Astronautix. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
This page was last edited on 7 May 2021, at 19:13
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