The beginning of Cassini’s final year at Saturn


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Link here. The article does a nice job of outlining, with videos, what will happen as the spacecraft makes multiple dives inside rings.

Cassini’s final acts, which will play out over the next year. That pass placed Cassini in a high-inclination orbit tilted 60° relative to the ring plane. Cassini will perform 20 passes just 620 miles (1000 kilometers) outside the F ring of Saturn in a phase known as the Ring-Grazing Orbits, which runs from late November 2016 through April 2017.

Cassini already reached apoapse, or its farthest point from Saturn, on Wednesday, November 30th. The first ring crossing is coming right up this weekend on Sunday, December 4th, at 7:09 a.m. EST / 13:09 UT. During the first periapse pass on Sunday, Cassini will also burn its main engine for the 183rd and final time for the mission. All later fine course corrections will be made using thrusters only.

Things get even more interesting after April, when the series of Grand Finale Orbits will begin, taking the spacecraft through the 1240-mile-wide (2000-kilometer-wide) gap between the planet’s cloud tops and rings for 22 final orbits. The Grand Finale Orbits start with the spacecraft’s 126th and final pass near Titan, which will set the spacecraft up for much tighter final orbits.

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3 comments

  • LocalFluff

    After Pluto and that weird comet, the rings of Saturn will be the grand finale of planetary missions, especially in terms of visuals for us in the general public. This is a guarantee for more investments in planetary exploration.

    Btw, PEOTUS in the first speech of his thank-you tour, in Cincinnati, just lauded the American people, reading from the prompter, for having put a man on the Moon “and satellites all over space”. 5 minutes from the end of that speech.

  • wayne

    LocalFluff–
    Good stuff.
    You do enjoy DJT, way toooo much! (You realize we don’t have a Prime Minister & Congress isn’t Parliament…)
    I did re-watch the PEOTUS speech segment you referenced; that was a definite nod to “space & science technology,” man-on-the-moon, the whole-enchilada (if I’m still allowed to say that) to be sure.
    He was 100% on-prompter & it sounded extremely positive.
    Nebulous & Vague, but very laudable & presented well, & it was in-the-prompter—he definitely has his ‘people’ going over the NASA budget.

    Back to Science– excellent timely Jet Propulsion Lab overview on Cassini.
    Project Manager & a Project Scientist. Good visuals & techie-data

    Cassini: Epic Journey at Saturn, Science Highlights & the Grand Finale
    JPL Public presentation
    September 22, 2016
    https://youtu.be/YchCuFvyAZ4

  • Localfluff

    I think that a rover on Io would be a profitable investment for planetary science. Watching volcanic eruption in that colorful landscape would be spectacular. Saturn is hard to beat when it comes to making space exploration popular, but Io could do it. Jupiter is colorful too, which I hope Juno will manage to show us on December 11.

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