Illustration showing Cassini's orbit path between Saturn's clouds and rings.

Cassini will perform 22 orbits of Saturn during the Grand Finale.

First Orbit: 271 - April 23 - 29

Grand Finale Dive #1
  • This first Grand Finale orbit begins following a final close flyby of Titan that sends Cassini on its first plunge through the gap between Saturn and its rings.
  • Prior to the periapse pass over Saturn, the spacecraft’s Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) captures images to produce a high-resolution movie of Saturn’s north polar region, including the planet’s hexagon jet stream for nearly a full rotation of Saturn.
  • The orbit provides Cassini with its best look ever at Saturn’s north pole with both VIMS and the Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS). And the observations should provide the sharpest near-infrared movies to date of the motion in and around the hexagon.
  • Before Cassini passes through Saturn’s ring plane for the first time in the region between Saturn and its rings, the spacecraft changes its attitude so that its high-gain antenna faces forward (called “HGA to RAM”) to help shield the spacecraft from ring particles during ring-plane crossing.
  • Using its VIMS and Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) instruments, Cassini studies Saturn’s smallest ring particles as they pass between the sun and the spacecraft.
  • During the hour leading up to closest approach to Saturn, the imaging cameras (ISS) take a strip-like series of images of features in the atmosphere (which the team refers to as "the noodle"). These images are expected to be Cassini's closest views of Saturn thus far, with a resolution up to 10 times higher than before.
  • During this orbit, Cassini gets within 1,840 miles (2,950 kilometers) of Saturn’s 1-bar level. Cassini also passes within 2,960 miles (4,760 kilometers) of the inner edge of Saturn’s D ring.

Orbit 271 Highlights

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Apr 23 3:46 a.m. 8:46 p.m. (Apr 22) Official start of the Grand Finale orbits.
Ring Crossing #1 Apr 26 9:00 a.m. 2:00 a.m. First pass through the gap between Saturn's atmosphere and innermost ring. High Gain Antenna will be used as a shield to protect from possible ring particle impacts.
Downlink Apr 27 5:52 a.m. 10:52 p.m. (Apr 26) Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 12:10 a.m. on Apr 27.

Full List of Orbits: 

Orbit 271 - April 23 - 29

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Apr 23 3:46 a.m. 8:46 p.m. (Apr 22) Official start of the Grand Finale orbits.
Ring Crossing #1 Apr 26 9:00 a.m. 2:00 a.m. First pass through the gap between Saturn's atmosphere and innermost ring. High Gain Antenna will be used as a shield to protect from possible ring particle impacts.
Downlink Apr 27 5:52 a.m. 10:52 p.m. (Apr 26) Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 12:10 a.m. on Apr 27.

Highlight: The beginning of the end for Cassini.


Orbit 272 - April 29 - May 6

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Apr 29 2:22 p.m. 7:22 a.m.  
Ring Crossing #2 May 2 7:38 p.m. 12:38 p.m.  
Downlink May 3 2:13 p.m. 7:13 a.m. Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 8:30 a.m. on May 3.

 


Orbit 273 - May 6 - 12

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse May 6 12:59 a.m. 5:59 p.m. (May 5)  
Ring Crossing #3 May 9 6:13 a.m. 11:13 p.m. (May 8)  
Downlink Apr 27 6:13 a.m. 11:13 p.m. (May 8) Cassini will be communicating with Earth during the crossing. Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 12:29 a.m. PDT on May 9.

Highlights: Cassini's Radio Science Substem (RSS) takes the lead on this orbit. There is a distant Titan flyby on May 7.


Orbit 274 - May 12 - 18

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse May 12 11:30 a.m. 4:30 a.m.  
Ring Crossing #4 May 15 4:42 p.m. 9:42 a.m.  
Downlink May 15 4:42 p.m. 9:42 a.m. Cassini will be communicating with Earth during the crossing. Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 9:42 a.m. PDT on May 15.

Highlight: Cassini's Radio Science Substem (RSS) takes the lead on this orbit. 


Orbit 275 - May 18 - 25

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse May 18 9:59 p.m.. 2:59 p.m.  
Ring Crossing #5 May 22 3:11 a.m. 8:11 p.m. (May 21)  
Downlink May 22 3:11 a.m. 8:11 p.m. (May 21) Cassini will be communicating with Earth during the ring crossing. Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 9:26 p.m. PDT on May 21.

Highlight: Cassini's Radio Science Substem (RSS) takes the lead on this orbit.


Orbit 276 - May 25 - 31

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse May 25 8:50 a.m. 1:50 a.m.  
Ring Crossing #6 May 28 2:22 p.m. 7:22 a.m. Farthest Cassini will venture into the D ring. Spacecraft will be shielded by its High Gain Antenna.
Downlink May 29 3:29 a.m. 8:29 p.m. (May 28) Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 9:44 p.m. on May 28.

Highlight: Cassini will sample Saturn's innermost (D) ring.

Orbit 277 - May 31 - June 7

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse May 31 8:04 p.m. 1:04 p.m.  
Ring Crossing #7 Jun 4 1:38 a.m. 6:38 p.m. (Jun 3) Second closest venture into the D ring. Spacecraft will be shielded by its High Gain Antenna.
Downlink Jun 4 2:10 p.m. 7:10 a.m. Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 8:25 a.m. on June 4.

Highlight: Cassini will sample Saturn's innermost (D) ring.


Orbit 278 - June 7 - 13

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Jun 7 7:18 a.m. 12:18 a.m.  
Ring Crossing #8 Jun 10 12:49 p.m. 5:49 a.m.  
Downlink Jun 10 12:49 p.m. 5:49 a.m. Cassini will be communicating with Earth during the ring crossing. Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 7:04 a.m. PDT on Jun 10.

Highlight: Cassini's Radio Science Substem (RSS) takes the lead on this orbit.


Orbit 279 - June 13 - 20

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Jun 13 6:24 p.m. 11:24 a.m.  
Ring Crossing #9 Jun 16 11:52 p.m. 4:52 p.m.  
Downlink Jun 17 12:05 p.m. 5:05 a.m. Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 6:20 a.m. PDT on Jun 17.

Highlight: A normal Grand Finale orbit.


Orbit 280 - June 20 - 26

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Jun 20 5:26 a.m. 10:26 p.m. (Jun 19)  
Ring Crossing #10 Jun 23 10:54 a.m. 3:54 a.m.  
Downlink Jun 23 10:54 a.m. 3:54 a.m. Cassini will be communicating with Earth during the ring crossing. Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 5:09 a.m. PDT on June 23.

Highlight: Cassini's Radio Science Substem (RSS) takes the lead on this orbit.


Orbit 281 - June 26 - July 3

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Jun 26 4:35 p.m. 9:35 a.m.  
Ring Crossing #11 Jun 29 10:10 p.m. 3:10 p.m. Cassini again ventures into the D ring. Spacecraft will be shielded by its High Gain Antenna.
Downlink Jun 30 10:15 a.m. 3:15 a.m. Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 4:30 a.m. PDT on June 30.

Highlight: A return to Saturn's innermost ring.


Orbit 282 - July 3 - July 9

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Jul 3 3:54 a.m. 8:54 p.m. (July 2)  
Ring Crossing #12 Jul 6 9:31 a.m. 2:31 a.m. Cassini again ventures into the D ring. Spacecraft will be shielded by its High Gain Antenna.
Downlink Jul 7 5:44 a.m. 10:44 p.m.
(Jul 6)
Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 11:59 p.m. PDT on July 6.

Highlight: A return to Saturn's innermost ring.


Orbit 283 - July 9 - July 16

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Jul 9 3:13 p.m. 8:13 a.m.  
Ring Crossing #13 Jul 12 8:44 p.m. 1:44 p.m.  
Downlink Jul 13 8:19 a.m. 1:19 p.m. Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 2:35 a.m. PDT on July 13.

Highlight: A distant Titan flyby is planned for July 10.


Orbit 284 - July 16 - July 22

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Jul 16 2:21 a.m. 7:21 p.m. (July 15)  
Ring Crossing #14 Jul 19 7:50 a.m. 12:50 a.m.  
Downlink Jul 19 7:50 a.m. 12:50 a.m. Cassini will be communicating with Earth during the ring crossing. Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 2:06 a.m. PDT on July 19.

Highlight: A normal grand finale orbit.


Orbit 285 - July 22 - July 29

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Jul 22 1:27 p.m. 6:27 a.m.  
Ring Crossing #15 Jul 25 6:55 p.m. 11:55 a.m.  
Downlink Jul 26 6:10 a.m. 11:10 p.m. (July 25) Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 12:27 a.m. PDT on July 19.

Highlight: A distant Titan flyby is planned for July 27.


Orbit 286 - July 29 - August 4

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Jul 29 12:33 a.m. 5:33 p.m. (Jul 28)  
Ring Crossing #16 Aug 1 6:05 a.m. 11:05 p.m. (Jul 31)  
Downlink Aug 1 10:57 p.m. 3:57 p.m. Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 5:14 p.m. PDT on August 1.

Highlight: A normal Grand Finale orbit.


Orbit 287 - August 4 - August 10

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Aug 4 11:46 a.m. 4:46 a.m.  
Ring Crossing #17 Aug 7 5:19 p.m. 10:19 a.m.  
Downlink Aug 8 3:11 p.m. 8:11 a.m. Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 9:29 a.m. PDT on August 8.

Highlight: A normal Grand Finale orbit.


Orbit 288 - August 10 - August 17

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Aug 10 10:56 p.m. 3:56 p.m.  
Periapse Aug 14 4:22 a.m. 9:22 p.m. (Aug 13) First of the "Final Five" dips into Saturn's atmosphere.
Downlink Aug 15 12:26 a.m. 5:26 p.m. (Aug 14) Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 6:45 p.m. PDT on August 14.

Highlight: Cassini will directly sample Saturn's atmosphere for the first time in history.

Orbit 289 - August 17 - August 23

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Aug 17 9:53 a.m. 2:53 a.m.  
Periapse Aug 20 3:23 p.m. 8:23 a.m. Second of the "Final Five" dips into Saturn's atmosphere.
Downlink Aug 21 3:10 a.m. 8:10 p.m. (Aug 20) Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 9:30 p.m. PDT on August 20.

Highlight: The spacecraft again drops down into the top of Saturn's atmosphere. 


Orbit 290 - August 23 - August 30

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Aug 23 8:51 p.m. 1:51 p.m.  
Periapse Aug 27 2:20 a.m. 7:20 p.m. (Aug 26) Third and lowest of the "Final Five" dips into Saturn's atmosphere.
Downlink Aug 27 1:54 p.m. 6:54 a.m. Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 8:14 a.m. PDT on August 27.

Highlight: Cassini's deepest atmospheric plunge before the final Grand Finale dive.


Orbit 291 - August 30 - September 5

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Aug 30 7:48 a.m. 12:48 a.m.  
Periapse Sep 2 1:17 p.m. 6:17 a.m. Fourth of the "Final Five" dips into Saturn's atmosphere.
Downlink Sep 3 4:38 a.m. 9:38 p.m. (Sep 2) Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 10:59 p.m. PDT on September 2.

Highlight: Another dip into the top of Saturn's atmosphere.


Orbit 292 - September 5 - 12

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Sep 5 6:47 p.m. 11:47 a.m.  
Periapse Sep 9 12:18 a.m. 5:18 p.m. (Sep 8) Last of the "Final Five" dips into Saturn's atmosphere.
Downlink Sep 9 1:07 p.m. 6:07 a.m. Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) is 7:29 a.m. PDT on September 9.

Highlight: A distant Titan flyby on September 11 will give the spacecraft a gentle nudge - a "goodbye kiss" - that will send it into its final orbit.


Orbit 293 - The Grand Finale - September 12 - 15

Event Date Spacecraft Time (UTC) Local Time (PDT) Notes
Apoapse Sep 12 5:37 a.m. 10:37 p.m. (Sep 11) The start of Cassini's final plunge into Saturn. The spacecraft will downlink to the Deep Space Network at the end of the day.
Atmospheric Entry Sep 15 10:44 a.m. 3:44 a.m. Thrusters will maintain attitude control for about a minute. Earth Recieved Time (ERT) of the final data transmission is about 5:07 a.m. PDT.
Loss of Signal Sep 15 10:45 a.m. 3:45 a.m. Estimated Earth Received Time (ERT) for the end of mission is  5:08 a.m. PDT on September 15.

Highlight: The mission team will gather in the pre-dawn hours on September 15 to say goodbye to the spacecraft and celebrate the mission.


Go to the Grand Finale Overview page.

For additional details about Cassini's recent activities, see Saturn Tour Dates for 2016 & 2017

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