June 17, 2004
After completing a successful trajectory correction maneuver on Wednesday, the Cassini spacecraft is now on its final approach to Saturn. The spacecraft is operating normally and is in excellent health.
The maneuver was necessary to adjust the spacecraft's course to achieve the desired ring plane crossing conditions on June 30. Cassini will pass through a known gap between two of Saturn’s rings, called the F and G rings. The region of passage through the ring plane was searched for hazards with the best Earth- and space-based telescopes and by Cassini itself. To protect the spacecraft from particles too small to be detected from Earth, Cassini will be turned to use its high-gain antenna as a shield.
This should be our final approach maneuver. It’s on to Saturn and orbit insertion, said Earl Maize, deputy program manager for the Cassini-Huygens mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
During Wednesday's maneuver, Cassini’s main engine burned for 38 seconds to slow the spacecraft by about 3.6 meters per second (about 8 miles per hour). In the next few days, mission managers will evaluate the tracking data to ensure the spacecraft is on the correct path for the Saturn encounter. All indications show everything is on target. Subsequent maneuvers are possible should tracking data indicate they are needed to correct the course of the spacecraft.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.
For the latest images and more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov .
Carolina Martinez (818) 354-9382