Cassini Status Update (Launch +8)
October 23, 1997
2:30 p.m. PDT
The Cassini spacecraft is operating as planned while it cruises through space on its way to the planet Saturn and the scientific wonders that await Earth-bound scientists there. According to Cassini Spacecraft Development Manager Chris Jones, the spacecraft continues its mission in "just right" condition. "Spacecraft and mission operations have been exceptional," said Cassini Deputy Program Manager Ronald Draper.
A major milestone was met today with the first checkout of the European Space Agency's Huygens probe. While results are still being evaluated, initial reports from the Huygens Probe Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, are that the test data looks very good. The Huygens probe will perform investigations of Saturn's moon Titan. Launch latches were successfully released on several instruments this week: the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer, the Composite Infrared Spectrometer, and the Magnetosphere Imaging Instrument. Deployment of the three plasma wave antennas is planned for later this week. These antennas are 10 meters (about 33 feet) in length and are used as an electric field sensor, which is part of the Radio and Plasma Wave Science instrument that measures electrical and magnetic fields in the plasma of interplanetary space and Saturn's magnetosphere.
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. Cassini is now over 3,000,000 kilometers (over 1,800,000 miles) from Earth. NASA's Deep Space Network is providing continuous 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.