Cassini Spacecraft Mated to Launch Vehicle

September 17, 1997

The Cassini Saturn orbiter, with the Huygens Titan probe back onboard, have been successfully mated with the Titan IV/Centaur at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and a new launch date of October 13 has been requested and is expected to be approved, program officials reported. The launch date will be announced by the U.S. Air Force, which is providing launch services for the Cassini mission.

If the launch date is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 13, the launch time would be 4:55 a.m. EDT (1:55 a.m. PDT). The launch time moves earlier by about six minutes each day in the primary launch period, which runs through Nov. 15.

Engineers and technicians from the European Space Agency and its contractors quickly completed clean-up and repair work on the Huygens Probe last week after a small area of the probe's thermal protection blanketing and insulating foam was damaged by overly forceful air from a launch pad cooling system. The probe and orbiter were given a clean bill of health, joined together once again, and rolled out to the launch pad on Sunday. Mating with the launch vehicle was completed Monday.

"We're back on track and have high confidence we will launch within the optimum launch period," said Deputy Program Manager Ronald Draper at JPL. Draper said a review board is meeting this week to determine the cause of the air conditioning incident and to establish a process to avoid any similar problem for other spacecraft in the future.

Additional information about Cassini-Huygens is online at

Cassini will begin orbiting Saturn on July 1, 2004, and release its piggybacked Huygens probe about six months later for descent through the thick atmosphere of the moon Titan. Cassini-Huygens is a cooperative mission of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.

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