5 min read

Cassini Significant Events 03/16/06 – 03/22/06

Cassini Significant Events 03/16/06 - 03/22/06

March 24, 2006

(Source: Cassini Project)

The most recent spacecraft telemetry was acquired Wednesday, March 22, from
the Goldstone tracking stations. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent
state of health and is operating normally. Information on the present
position and speed of the Cassini spacecraft may be found on the "Present
Position" web page located at
http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/operations/present-position.cfm .

Thursday, March 16 (DOY 075)

In the Meridian room of Dunsink Observatory in Castleknock, Ireland, a
Saturn Observation Campaign (SOC) member hosted 55 people for a presentation
about JPL's Spirit of Exploration and the stunning images from the Cassini
Mission. Unfortunately the evening's Saturn-gazing had to be cancelled due
to appalling weather.

Thirty-five 2nd grade elementary school students, their parents, and
teachers gathered in Grossrinderfeld, Germany to view Saturn, the Orion
nebula and the Pleiades star cluster. Kids and parents alike said a big
"wow" after looking for the first time at Saturn and its clearly visible

Friday, March 17 (DOY 076):

Uplink operations sent commands to the spacecraft today for the DOY 080 Rhea
Live Inertial Vector Propagator (IVP) update, and RADAR Instrument Expanded
Block Update mini-sequence for Rhea. All files have been verified onboard
the spacecraft.

Saturday, March 18 (DOY 077):

On March 18 the Cassini spacecraft conducted the 13th targeted flyby of
Saturn's moon Titan. With a closest approach altitude of 1,951 kilometers (1,212 miles), this
flyby provided the first Cassini tour opportunity for Radio Science (RSS) to
observe Titan's ionosphere and neutral atmosphere using radio occultation,
and Titan's surface using bistatic scattering. The radio occultation is the
second ever of Titan, the first being a sole Voyager occultation in 1980.

During approach to Titan, the Cassini high gain antenna boresight was
pointed to illuminate regions of Titan's surface for which mirror-like
reflections of the incident radio signals can be observed at the DSN ground
receiving stations. The strength and polarization properties of the
reflected signals, if detectable, provide important information about the
physical nature of the surface region probed, as well as the surface

Radio Science has reported that the S- and X-band data is of exceptionally
high quality. Both the large and small-scale structure of the atmosphere at
the two observation latitudes are well captured in the data. The data is
consistent among the multiple stations observing at the same time, clearly
indicating that the structure observed is real and not noise. The details
of the small-scale structure appear to be different for the ingress and
egress sides. Despite spacecraft pointing being controlled by thrusters and
poor weather at both Goldstone and Madrid at the time, the Ka-band amplitude
stability appears to remain surprisingly good throughout the approximately
one hour observation period.

All indications are that T12 was remarkably successful, the first Titan
occultation in 25 years, the first at three wavelengths, and the first Titan
bistatic experiment as well.

Tuesday, March 21 (DOY 080):

Orbit trim maneuver (OTM) #56 was performed today. This is the cleanup
maneuver from the Titan 12 encounter on March 18. The main engine burn
began at 9:30 PM PST. A "quick look" immediately after the maneuver showed
the main engine burn duration was 2.71 seconds, imparting a delta-V of
approximately 0.44 m/s. All subsystems reported nominal performance after
the maneuver.

This week Cassini had one of the closest Rhea flybys in the tour. Optical
remote sensing observations, along with a RADAR block, were used to probe
the surface composition and geologic history of the largest icy satellite
orbiting within the magnetosphere and E-ring environment. In particular, the
Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) conducted compositional
investigations of Rhea's surface and the "near-Rhea" environment to search
for a tenuous atmosphere. The Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) continued with its
search for Saturnian dust stream particles. In addition to its icy
satellite high phase campaign, the Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS) observed
the sub-Saturn hemisphere of Rhea at the best resolution of the prime
mission, as well as part of the surface in "Saturn-shine".

Today the Navigation Team released reference trajectory 060323 for Project
use. The new trajectory was designed to raise the minimum Titan flyby
altitude from 950 km, and will be used in the Aftermarket Process for
sequence development of S23.

Wednesday, March 22 (DOY 078):

The final system mode end-to-end test for the Monopropellant Tank Assembly
(MTA) recharge and ACS flight software A8.7.4 uplink activities began today
and will conclude on Thursday. The recharge brings the thrusters up to
nominal thrust levels to provide control authority for the planned lower
altitude Titan flybys, starting with T-16 on July 22, 2006.

Reaction Wheel Assembly (RWA) #1 exhibited three drag torque spikes so far
in 2006 -- on February 8, and, more recently, March 15 and 16. Before this
year, the last drag torque spike on RWA-1 occurred in 2001. RWA-1 has been
troublesome in the past, exhibiting excessive drag torque in 2004, although
a friction test on January 27, 2006 showed a positive trend since early
2004. The ACS team is keeping an eye on this.

The S21 Science Operations Plan update Project Briefing was held today. S21
now moves on to the final sequence development process that will kick off
Tuesday of next week.

A delivery coordination meeting was held for Navigation tool set T2.3.
This is an incremental delivery of multi-mission Navigation software.

A gorgeous picture of Enceladus hovering just above the rings was Astronomy
Picture of the Day today.

Wrap up:

Check out the Cassini web site at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov for the latest
press releases and images.

Do you want to know where Saturn viewing might be happening in your area?
We have over 350 members of the Saturn Observation Campaign in 45 states and
49 countries around the world. Contact one of the SOC members in your state
to ask when and where you can see Saturn.

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 Science Mission Directorate, Washington,
D.C. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.