NASA's Cassini spacecraft, due for launch toward the planet Saturn in early October, arrived today at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.
The spacecraft was shipped from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, by a U.S. Air Force C-17 air cargo plane. The spacecraft will now undergo final integration and testing prior to being taken to Launch Complex 40 for mating to an Air Force Titan IV launch vehicle.
Saturn is best known for its complex ring system and a complex atmosphere with very high winds. The Cassini spacecraft will deploy an instrumented probe called Huygens to explore Saturn's moon Titan, itself the size of a small planet. Huygens will ride a parachute through Titan's dense atmosphere, which may have important similarities to the early atmosphere of Earth. Studies of Saturn's atmosphere along with its rings, moons and magnetic environment will help produce a better understanding of planetary evolution.
At KSC, after post-arrival inspections of the spacecraft have been completed, integration of the 12 science instruments not already installed will be finished. Next, the large parabolic high- gain and then the propulsion module will be mated to the spacecraft. At that point, an integrated functional test will be run to verify that all of these systems are operating properly together. Finally, the Huygens Probe, which up to now has been undergoing its component integration and associated testing separately, will be mated with the Cassini spacecraft, fully completing spacecraft integration.
Cassini was built and is managed for NASA by JPL. The European Space Agency (ESA) is contributing the Huygens Probe. The high-gain antenna and elements of several of Cassini's science instruments are being provided by the Italian Space Agency (ASI).
Cassini is scheduled for launch on Oct. 6, 1997, at 5:38 a.m. Eastern Standard Time to begin its nearly seven-year journey to the outer solar system. Once it reaches Saturn, the spacecraft is expected to complete 60 orbits of the planet and its moons during a four-year primary mission.
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