Cassini testing part of its radio system

Jan 13, 2012 By Jia-Rui C. Cook
Artist concept of Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL

Engineers with NASA's Cassini mission are conducting diagnostic testing on a part of the spacecraft's radio system after its signal was not detected on Earth during a tracking pass in late December. The spacecraft has been communicating with Earth using a backup part.

The issue occurred with the ultra-stable oscillator, which is used for one type of radio and also as a means of sending data back to Earth. The spacecraft is currently using an auxiliary oscillator, whose frequency stability is adequate for transmitting data from the spacecraft to Earth. Tests later this month will help mission managers decide whether it will be possible to bring the ultra-stable oscillator back into service.

Some of the data collected for the radio science experiment using the auxiliary oscillator will be of lesser quality than that from the ultra-stable oscillator. Signals used for occultation experiments - where scientists analyze how are affected as they travel through Saturn's rings or the atmospheres of Saturn and its moons back to Earth - will be of lesser quality. A second kind of radio science investigation using to probe the internal structure of Saturn or its moons will not be affected. Cassini carries 12 science experiments.

The cause is still under investigation, but age may be a factor. The spacecraft launched in 1997 and has orbited Saturn since 2004. Cassini completed its prime mission in 2008 and has had two additional mission extensions. This is the first time its ultra-stable oscillator has had an issue.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena manages the mission for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Explore further: Orion on track at T MINUS 1 Week to first blastoff

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cassini flyby focuses on Saturn's moon Enceladus

Nov 08, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Saturn's moon Enceladus shows its icy face and famous plumes in raw, unprocessed images captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its successful flyby on Nov. 6, 2011.

Journey to Saturn From Your Computer

Feb 01, 2008

Want a peek at Saturn as seen from space? A new interactive 3-D viewer that uses a game engine and allows users to travel to Saturn and see it the way the Cassini spacecraft sees it is now online at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/multimedia/CASSIE ...

Engineers assessing Cassini spacecraft

Nov 05, 2010

Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., are working to understand what caused NASA's Cassini spacecraft to put itself into "safe mode," a precautionary standby mode. Cassini entered ...

Cassini presents Saturn moon quintet

Sep 19, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- With the artistry of a magazine cover shoot, NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this portrait of five of Saturn's moons poised along the planet's rings.

Recommended for you

Orion on track at T MINUS 1 Week to first blastoff

32 minutes ago

At T MINUS 1 Week on this Thanksgiving Holiday, all launch processing events remain on track for the first blast off of NASA's new Orion crew vehicle on Dec. 4, 2014 which marks the first step on the long ...

Bad weather delays Japan asteroid probe lift off

6 hours ago

Bad weather will delay the launch of a Japanese space probe on a six-year mission to mine a distant asteroid, just weeks after a European spacecraft's historic landing on a comet captivated the world.

Manchester scientists boost NASA's missions to Mars

15 hours ago

Computer Scientists from The University of Manchester have boosted NASA space missions by pioneering a global project to develop programs that efficiently test and control NASA spacecraft.

ESA image: The gold standard

15 hours ago

The Eutelsat-9B satellite with its EDRS-A payload is shown in the anechoic test chamber of Airbus Defence and Space in Toulouse, France, having completed its final antenna pattern tests today.

Frost-covered chaos on Mars

15 hours ago

Thanks to a break in the dusty 'weather' over the giant Hellas Basin at the beginning of this year, ESA's Mars Express was able to look down into the seven kilometre-deep basin and onto the frosty surface ...

User comments : 0

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.