ORIGINAL CAPTION: Workers offload the shipping container with the Cassini orbiter from what looks like a giant shark mouth, but is really an Air Force C-17 air cargo plane which just landed at KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility from Edwards Air Force Base, California.
The orbiter and the Huygens probe already being processed at KSC are the two primary components of the Cassini spacecraft, which will be launched on a Titan IVB/Centaur expendable launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Station. Cassini will explore Saturn, its rings and moons for four years.
The Huygens probe, designed and developed for the European Space Agency (ESA), will be deployed from the orbiter to study the clouds, atmosphere and surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
The orbiter was designed and assembled at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
Following postflight inspections, integration of the 12 science instruments not already installed on the orbiter will be completed. Then, the parabolic high-gain antenna and the propulsion module will be mated to the orbiter, followed by the Huygens probe, which will complete spacecraft integration. The Cassini mission is targeted for an Oct. 6 launch to begin its 6.7-year journey to the Saturnian system. Arrival at the planet is expected to occur around July 1, 2004.