Cassini Mission Status
7 May 1999
(Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
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On course for Saturn, the Cassini spacecraft remains in excellent health and targeted for the second of its two flybys of the planet Venus next month.
On June 24, Cassini will fly about 600 kilometers (373 miles) from Venus, gaining a boost in speed from that planet's gravity. In August, Cassini flies past Earth at an altitude of 1,166 kilometers (725 miles), about five times higher than the Space Shuttle's orbit. The Earth swingby will bend Cassini's flight path toward Jupiter, where Cassini will perform yet another flyby at a distance of 9.7 million kilometers (6 million miles), using Jupiter's gravity to swing the spacecraft on to its final destination of Saturn.
Cassini's cosmic dust analyzer is performing well and has returned some of the mission's first scientific measurements. It has been continuously measuring the dust environment in the inner solar system since March 25. It is expected that the measurements will continue for nearly another decade. During the initial 41-day period of measurements, the instrument has detected at least 7 dust impacts. The size and speed of the particles seems to be consistent with dust from both interplanetary and interstellar sources, but it is not possible to clearly identify the source for these individual particles.
The measurements are consistent with previous observations done by similar instruments on NASA's Galileo and Ulysses spacecraft, which discovered the stream of interstellar dust particles that flows into the solar system. The Stardust spacecraft will fly through this stream and take samples for return to Earth along with comet dust samples.
The Cassini flight team's schedule continues to be dominated by routine maintenance of the spacecraft systems, as well as development of software for both the spacecraft and ground systems. Communications with the spacecraft are conducted through the antennas of NASA's Deep Space Network. Cassini is traveling at about 107,725 kilometers per hour (66,940 miles per hour) and has traveled more than 1.346 billion kilometers (836,400,000 miles) since launch October 15, 1997.
The Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan, a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency, is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.