Cassini Goes On

August 24, 2004

The Cassini spacecraft successfully completed a 51-minute engine burn that will raise its next closest approach distance to Saturn by nearly 300,000 kilometers (186,000 miles). The maneuver was necessary to keep the spacecraft from passing through the rings and to put it on target for its first close encounter with Saturn's moon Titan on Oct. 26.

Mission controllers received confirmation of a successful burn at 11:15 a.m. Pacific Time today. The spacecraft is approaching the highest point in its first and largest orbit about Saturn. Its distance from the center of Saturn is about 9 million kilometers (5.6 million miles), and its speed just prior to today's burn was 325 meters per second (727 miles per hour) relative to Saturn. That means it is nearly at a standstill compared to its speed of about 30,000 meters per second (67,000 miles per hour) at the completion of its orbit insertion burn on June 30.

"Saturn orbit insertion got us into orbit and this maneuver sets us up for the tour," said Joel Signorelli, spacecraft system engineer for the Cassini-Huygens mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The maneuver was the third longest engine burn for the Cassini spacecraft and the last planned pressurized burn in the four-year tour. The Saturn obit insertion burn was 97 minutes long, and the deep space maneuver in Dec. 1998 was 88 minutes long.

"The October 26 Titan encounter will be much closer than our last one. We'll fly by Titan at an altitude of 1,200 kilometers (746 miles), 'dipping our toe' into its atmosphere," said Signorelli. Cassini's first Titan flyby on July 2 was from 340,000 kilometers (211,000 miles) away.

Over the next four years, the Cassini orbiter will execute 45 Titan flybys as close as approximately 950 kilometers (590 miles) from the moon. In January 2005, the European-built Huygens probe that is attached to Cassini will descend through Titan's atmosphere to the surface.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.

Source: NASA

Explore further: Cassini Finds Possible Origin of One of Saturn's Rings

Related Stories

Cassini Finds Possible Origin of One of Saturn's Rings

August 2, 2007

Cassini scientists may have identified the source of one of Saturn's more mysterious rings. Saturn's G ring likely is produced by relatively large, icy particles that reside within a bright arc on the ring's inner edge.

Cassini finds Prometheus a sculptor of Saturn's rings

October 26, 2005

New findings from members of the Cassini imaging team show that certain prominent features in Saturn's narrow and contorted F ring can be understood in terms of a simple gravitational interaction with the small moon Prometheus. ...

Surprise hidden in Titan's smog: Cirrus-like clouds

February 3, 2011

Every day is a bad-air day on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Blanketed by haze far worse than any smog belched out in Los Angeles, Beijing or even Sherlock Holmes's London, the moon looks like a dirty orange ball. Described ...

Recommended for you

CERN collides heavy nuclei at new record high energy

November 25, 2015

The world's most powerful accelerator, the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at CERN in Geneva established collisions between lead nuclei, this morning, at the highest energies ever. The LHC has been colliding ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.