First Saturn Ring-Gazing Plunge Made by NASA’S Cassini Spacecraft (Download PDF)


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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has made its first dive past one of Saturn’s outer rings. It is beginning the final chapter of its mission. Cassini skimmed Saturn’s F ring, the outermost of the planet’s visible rings, at a distance of 11,000km. This ring is ever-changing, with bright streamers and tenuous filaments sometimes flowing out from it.

Cassini Makes First Ring-Grazing Plunge

Cassini Makes First Ring-Grazing Plunge

Cassini Makes First Ring-Grazing Plunge

Ring-Gazing Plunge

  • Cassini crossed through the plane of Saturn’s rings at a distance of approximately 91,000 kilometres above Saturn’s cloud tops.
  • The first close dive past the outer edges of Saturn’s rings since beginning its penultimate mission phase.
  • Dusty ring produced by the planet’s small moons Janus and Epimetheus.
  • Spacecraft performed a short burn of its main engine that lasted about six seconds.
  • Next pass by the rings’ outer edges is planned for December 11.

Cassini Orbiter

  • Dimensions: 22 feet (6.7 meters) high; 13.1 feet (4 meters) wide
  • Weight: 12,593 pounds (5,712 kg) with fuel, Huygens probe, adapter, etc; 4,685 pounds (2,125 kg) unfueled orbiter alone
  • Orbiter science instruments: composite infrared spectrometer, imaging system, ultraviolet imaging spectrograph, visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, imaging radar, radio science, plasma spectrometer, cosmic dust analyzer, ion and neutral mass spectrometer, magnetometer, magnetospheric imaging instrument, radio and plasma wave science
Cassini team Organization

Cassini Team Organization

Cassini team Organization

  • Power: 885 watts (633 watts at end of mission) from radioisotope thermoelectric generators
  • Two Extended Missions: Equinox (2008-2010) and Solstice (2010-2017).

- Published/Last Modified on: December 8, 2016


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