In the midst of the excitement surrounding the arrival of the Galileo spacecraft at Jupiter, technicians and engineers presided over the birth of a new spacecraft, in a white-walled clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA.
The Cassini spacecraft, bound for a launch to Saturn in 1997, was successfully "powered on" for the first time last week as its cousin spacecraft Galileo began its historic mission at Jupiter. Cassini is scheduled for launch from Cape Canaveral, FL, on October 6, 1997 and will reach Saturn in July 2004.
"This is the first time the major elements of the spacecraft have been electrically linked together, and it all worked," said Richard J. Spehalski, Cassini program manager at JPL.
Support equipment supplied the 30 volts of electricity on which the spacecraft and its science instruments will operate. No problems were found as the power flowed through the seven miles of cabling that will link Cassini's computers, science instruments and mechanical and propulsion systems.
Cassini, a joint mission of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), is similar in concept to the Galileo mission. Cassini will send a parachuted probe, called Huygens, into the atmosphere and to the surface of Saturn's large moon Titan. The main Cassini spacecraft will orbit Saturn to provide four years of close-up data on the moons, rings, planet and Saturn's magnetic environment. Huygens is provided by ESA, and Cassini's sophisicated radio antenna is provided by ASI. The Cassini program is managed by JPL.
Assembly and testing of the spacecraft will continue at JPL through mid-1997 when the spacecraft will be shipped to Cape Canaveral, FL, for launch preparations.
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