Status Report

NASA Cassini Significant Events for 03/02/06 – 03/08/06

By SpaceRef Editor
March 10, 2006
Filed under , , ,
NASA Cassini Significant Events  for 03/02/06 – 03/08/06

The most recent spacecraft telemetry was acquired Wednesday, March 8, 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 .

Thursday, March 2 (DOY 061)

The final sequence and command approval meetings for the S19 background sequence were held today.  The sequence will go active on-board the spacecraft on Friday, March 10.

Uplink Operations and the Spacecraft Operations Office sent commands to the spacecraft today for a Radio Science Ka-band test with the Deep Space Network, and for a DOY 068 roll halt and reaction wheel assembly bias that will execute at the end of S18.

A Colorado Saturn Observation Campaign Member was able to show Saturn this past Thursday to a group of elementary school kids. Some of the students thought Saturn looked like Mickey Mouse tilted to the side! Everyone received Cassini handouts.

Friday, March 3 (DOY 062):

The Irish Astronomical Society and the South Dublin Astronomical Society showcased Saturn and the moon to 120 children and their parents at St Brigid’s School, Greystones, Ireland, March 3 & 4. The beautiful planet Saturn showed itself extremely well in the cold Irish air.

Saturday, March 4 (DOY 063):

Last week during the Orbit Trim Maneuver (OTM) 53 pre-burn yaw turn, while the spacecraft was off Earth point, the Helium Latch Valve Driver (HELVD) Solid State Power Switch (SSPS) tripped unexpectedly.  It has been 17 weeks since the last such trip on November 4, 2005.  These SSPS trips have been seen before and are most likely caused by Galactic Cosmic Rays.  So far in the mission there have been 15 such trips.  They are predicted to occur at a rate of about 2 per year so the spacecraft is right on track!  There was no impact to spacecraft performance as this driver was actually OFF at the time.  Today the HELVD was powered off redundantly and the SSPS trip was cleared.  All subsystems reported nominal performance following this activity.

Monday, March 6 (DOY 065):

Today the sequence leads for S19 began sending up sequence related files. Instrument Expanded Block (IEB) files for the Cassini Plasma Spectrometer (CAPS), Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS), Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS), Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument (MIMI), Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS), and Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) were sent.  Tuesday and Wednesday the Optical Navigation IEBs and the background sequence will be sent.

Preliminary files for the Science Operations Plan Update process for S21 were submitted to the Science Planning team today.  The final versions are due on Friday.

A “Come See Saturn” event in Simi Valley, California, attracted over 200 people, including one 94 year old youngster-at-heart who climbed the stairs to view Saturn for his very first time through the Moorpark College Observatory telescope.  Cassini Outreach material was distributed at the event. Additional members of the Ventura County Astronomical Society set up 10 telescopes near the observatory.

Tuesday, March 7 (DOY 066):

The preliminary End-to-End ITL test for the Monopropellant Tank Assembly (MTA) Recharge and AACS flight software version A8.7.4 uplink activities was performed March 7-9.  This activity will be performed on the spacecraft during the execution of S19, on April 10-13.  The recharge brings the thrusters up to nominal pressure to provide control authority for the planned lower altitude Titan flybys, starting with Titan-16 on July 22, at 950 km.  ACS will upload a flight software patch to bring the default thruster magnitudes used in safing in line with the expected values. The B branch will be updated before the recharge, and the A – and redundantly B – branches will be updated afterwards.  This strategy of splitting the patch uploads is robust to a leaky thruster after a successful MTA recharge, and to a safing event after a failed MTA recharge.

A Science Archive Working Group meeting was held today to discuss archive status.  At this time all instruments are on schedule to meet the fourth archive milestone on April 1.

Aviation Week has released their 49th annual selections for the Laurel Awards.  “The Cassini/Huygens spacecraft team for the successful landing of the European Space Agency’s Huygens Probe on Saturn’s moon Titan, and for the science return and poetic images from NASA’s Cassini orbiter that will continue for many years.”

Wednesday, March 8 (DOY 067):

As the distance from Saturn increased following last week’s periapse, the Magnetospheric and Plasma Science instruments resumed their magnetospheric boundary survey. In contrast to the early part of S18, observations this week were on the dusk side.

ISS observed transits of Enceladus across Dione, Rhea, and Helene; of Helene across Dione; and of Janus across Helene. By shuttering the narrow angle camera every minute for the duration of the observation, the exact time of alignment can be calculated and incorporated into orbit computations. Other images for orbit determination were taken of Atlas, Epimetheus, Janus, Helene, Pan, Pandora, Prometheus, Calypso, Pallene, Telesto, Methone, and Polydeuces.

ISS also targeted Dione and Rhea for spectrophotometry using various color and polarizing filters.  UVIS participated in these observations to measure the ultraviolet albedo for different longitudes and phase angles.

Not all attention was focused on Saturn’s satellites. ISS, with VIMS riding along, performed polarimetry observations of Saturn itself on three different days at phase angles between 123 and 128 degrees. With Saturn nearly 2.6 million kilometers away on Saturday, the UVIS field of view slit covered the diameter of Saturn. Taking advantage of this coverage, in a lengthy observation UVIS made several slow scans across Saturn’s visible hemisphere to form spectral images in the ultraviolet. These will be used to study atmospheric composition and auroral activity.

Upcoming Events:

On March 10, at The Cook Center Planetarium, Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas: Join SOC members who will show Ring World inside the planetarium followed by Saturn, Mars, Orion nebula and moon viewing through telescopes.

Wrap up:

Check out the Cassini web site at for the latest press releases and images.

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.

SpaceRef staff editor.