Successful Trajectory Control Maneuver Marks Milestone for Cassini

November 10, 1997

A major milestone for the Cassini program was accomplished successfully on November 9 when Cassini spacecraft controllers performed the spacecraft's first planned trajectory correction maneuver. The maneuver required an adjustment of only 2.7 meters per second (about 8 feet per second) to fine-tune the spacecraft's flightpath. "The operations team was very professional and we are all delighted with the maneuver results," said Cassini Deputy Program Manager Ronald Draper, adding that the spacecraft performed "very, very nicely." The main engine burn lasted 34.6 seconds and was observed in real-time telemetry from the spacecraft.

During the maneuver, the spacecraft was turned away from the Sun and performed a 63-minute thermal test. Reverse maneuvers oriented Cassini back to the Sun following the burn and thermal tests.

Later this week, the magnetosphere imaging cover will be released. This is the first instrument ever designed to produce an image of a planetary magnetosphere. It will measure the composition, charge state and energy distribution of energetic ions and electrons; detect fast neutral particles; and conduct remote imaging of Saturn's magnetosphere.

Spacecraft health remains excellent as Cassini continues its voyage, with its first gravity assist, or swingby, of the planet Venus planned for April 26, 1998. This maneuver will help Cassini gain velocity to make possible its long journey and arrival at Saturn in 2004.

The spacecraft's velocity relative to the sun is at about 26 kilometers per second (about 59,250 miles per hour). Cassini is now more than 9 million kilometers (almost 6 million miles) from Earth.

Additional information about Cassini-Huygens is online at

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.

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