Cassini Program Frees Up Valuable DSN Time
September 4, 1998
The Cassini spacecraft remains in excellent health on its voyage to Saturn. Spacecraft operations have been normal with most tasks focused on routine maintenance activities.
Early last month, the Cassini Program reduced -- earlier than planned -- the number of Deep Space Network communications antennas needed to collect navigation ranging data on the spacecraft, at least through the end of the calendar year. This frees up valuable time on the powerful 70-meter antennas for use by other space exploration projects. The Cassini program had been using 34-meter and 70-meter antennas in tandem at each of the three Deep Space Network complexes for spacecraft telecommunications and for gathering navigation ranging data on the spacecraft's position. But because of better-than-predicted ranging system performance and an improving telecommunications link due to the relative positions of Earth and Cassini, the 70-meter stations currently are not needed to augment the spacecraft ranging data collected with the 34-meter antennas. As the geometry between
Earth and Cassini further improves, the program will temporarily give up the use of the 70-meter antennas for telecommunications, and will rely solely on the 34-meter antennas for an as-yet-undetermined period of time.
Today, Cassini is traveling at about 81,770 kilometers per hour (about 50,800 miles per hour) and has traveled more than 900 million kilometers (about 560 million miles).
Additional information about Cassini-Huygens is online at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.
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.