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Official NASA Communication 96-16

Official NASA Communication 96-16

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Published by: NASAdocuments on Oct 06, 2007
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Douglas IsbellHeadquarters, Washington, DC January 29, 1996(Phone: 202/358-1753)Mary Beth MurrillJet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA(Phone: 818/354-5011)RELEASE: 96-16KEY COMPONENTS INSTALLED ON SATURN-BOUND SPACECRAFTComputer brains, an electronic inner ear and thespacecraft equivalent of a cardiovascular system have beensuccessfully installed into NASA's Cassini spacecraft boundfor a launch to Saturn in 1997.Engineers and technicians at the Jet PropulsionLaboratory (JPL), Pasadena, CA, this month completedinstallation of this key flight hardware on the Cassinispacecraft framework in JPL's spacecraft assembly facilityclean room.Also included among many critical Cassini milestonesmet this month was a successful 200-minute engine firing of the spacecraft's main rocket engine last week, and successfulcompletion of launch-like vibration testing for Cassini'sHuygens probe. This conical payload of science instruments,provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), will be deployedfrom the orbiter and parachute to the surface of Saturn's moonTitan, in a manner similar to the recent successful mission of the Galileo atmospheric probe into Jupiter."The Cassini team has done an excellent job of keepingthe program on track to complete the orbiter and probe onschedule and within budget," saidRichard J. Spehalski, Cassini program manager at JPL, whichmanages the effort for NASA. "Our challenge in 1996 will beto maintain our momentum as all the spacecraft elements cometogether."Last week, Cassini's attitude and articulation controlsubsystem (AACS) was integrated. The AACS allows thespacecraft to maintain its bearings in space. It joined thealready-installed power and pyro subsystem, which governs the
flow of electricity through seven miles of cable that willlink all of Cassini's systems, and the command and datasubsystem, which acts essentially as Cassini's brain,controlling all spacecraft functions.While Cassini engineers and technicians assemble thespacecraft in the clean room, engineers and technicians in anadjacent shirtsleeve environment are remotely controlling thenew subsystems in tests that run each through the commands andphenomena they will experience in flight.This complex computer-based ground system largelyresembles the one that will be used to control Cassini once inflight, and it allows the Cassini team to identify problemsand make changes needed in the flight operations system wellahead of launch.Last week also marked the successful completion of acritical 200-minute test firing of one of the two spacecraftrocket engines, demonstrating the capability of the mainengine assembly including the successful operation of JPL-developed engine gimbal actuators -- sophisticated devicesthat fine-tune the motion and pointing of the spacecraft's twoengines.The engine gimbal actuators, based upon the design of unique actuators used on the orbiter spacecraft for the Vikingmissions to Mars in the mid-1970s, come into play duringspacecraft course corrections and in the critical brakingmaneuver that Cassini must perform when it arrives at Saturnin July 2004.There, Cassini must fire one of its engines for about 90minutes to brake into orbit around the ringed planet. The tworedundant engines are mounted side-by-side at the base of theSaturn orbiter, and the engine that fires must be pointed sothat the rocket thrust is directed through the spacecraft'scenter of gravity. The engine gimbal actuators, responding tocommands from the attitude and articulation control subsystem,will make constant minute adjustments in the engine's positionto compensate for the shifting weight of more than 6,800pounds (3,100 kilograms) of propellant.Important tests of Cassini's multiple-frequency radiosystem were also successfully completed this month at JPL. In

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