Cassini Status Update (Launch +5)
October 20, 1997
12:30 p.m. PDT
The Cassini spacecraft continues its mission through space to the planet Saturn, tracking the stars as did earlier voyagers during explorations of Earth. One million star updates have been processed thus far by the Stellar Reference Unit; this data updates the spacecraft's orientation. The condition of the spacecraft today was noted to be "fabulous," according to Cassini Deputy Program Manager Ronald Draper.
Cassini's different systems and subsystems are being checked out by engineers during the launch and early cruise sequence. The Ultra-Stable Oscillator, which provides a very stable downlink frequency source for the radio science investigation, has been activated and is operating properly. The Deep Space Transponder, the radio receiver on Cassini, is receiving commands from ground controllers and is working correctly. Launch data from the solid state recorder continues to be played back and analyzed. Launch latches will be released on several instruments this week: the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer, the Composite Infrared Spectrometer, and the Magnetosphere Imaging Instrument. Current plans call for checkout of the Huygens probe later this week.
The spacecraft's velocity relative to Earth is at about 4.1 kilometers per second (about 9,170 miles per hour). Velocity is expected to decrease slowly over the next two to three months. NASA's Deep Space Network is providing communications with Cassini through its 34-meter dish antennas located in California, Spain, and Australia.
The Cassini spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral, FL, at 4:43 a.m. EDT on October 15.
Additional information about Cassini-Huygens is online at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.
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.