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Class: Planetary. Type: Outer Planets. Nation: United States. Agency: NASA, ESA, ASI. Manufacturer: JPL.

The Cassini spacecraft is a scientific platform designed to perform an in-depth study of the Saturnian system. After insertion into its orbit about Saturn in 2004, Cassini will perform detailed studies of Saturn's atmosphere, magnetosphere, rings and several of its moons. Chief among the goals is a thorough characterisation of the large moon, Titan. Titan's surface will be mapped using synthetic aperture radar and its atmosphere will be investigated by the ESA build Huygens probe that will descend via parachute. Scientists and engineers from the US and 16 European countries will participate in the mission.

Spacecraft: 3-axis stabilised; power supplied by 3 RTG (628W at EOM); 4 meter HGA supporting S-, X-,Ku-, Ka-band signals, X-band telemetry at 249 kbps, 2 backup LGAs for emergency commanding; dual redundant flight computers; dual redundant 445N gimballed main engines (burning N2O4, MMH), 16 hydrazine ACS thrusters; redundant star sensors, sun sensors, HRG IRUs, reaction wheels; active thermal control using RHUs, heaters, louvers; redundant solid-state recorder; high level of spacecraft autonomy and fault protection 2.7 meter dia. Huygens probe deployed by 3 pyrotechnic release bolts, 3 parachutes used to control descent, heat shield uses AQ60 material developed by Aerospatiale, redundant S-band link (8 kbps max), lithium sulphur-dioxide (LiSO2) primary batteries, radar altimeter. Payload: The experiments carried aboard the Cassini orbiter include: Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS), Cassini Radar, Radio Science Subsystem (RSS), Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS), Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS), Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS), Cosmic Dust Analyser (CDA), Radio and Plasma Wave Spectrometer (RPWS), Cassini Plasma Spectrometer (CAPS), Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS), Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument (MIMI), Dual Technique Magnetometer (MAG). The Huygens probe experiments include: Descent Imager and Spectral Radiometer, Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument, Gas Chromatograph and Mass Spectrometer, Aerosol Collector Pyrolyzer, Surface Science Package, and the Doppler Wind Experiment.
$ 3.4 billion total program: US Orbiter $ 1.4 billion; ESA/Aerospatiale Huygens $ 422 million. Titan IVB K32 launch cost $ 450 million. Saturn arrival in 2004.


Design Life: 7 years. Total Length: 6.7 m. Maximum Diameter: 4.0 m.

Cassini Chronology

15 October 1997 Cassini Launch Site: Cape Canaveral . Launch Vehicle: Titan 4B.

En route Venus


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Last update 12 March 2001.
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© Mark Wade, 2001 .