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Douglas Isbell

Headquarters, Washington, DC January 29, 1996
(Phone: 202/358-1753)

Mary Beth Murrill
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA
(Phone: 818/354-5011)

RELEASE: 96-16


Computer brains, an electronic inner ear and the
spacecraft equivalent of a cardiovascular system have been
successfully installed into NASA's Cassini spacecraft bound
for a launch to Saturn in 1997.

Engineers and technicians at the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, CA, this month completed
installation of this key flight hardware on the Cassini
spacecraft framework in JPL's spacecraft assembly facility
clean room.

Also included among many critical Cassini milestones
met this month was a successful 200-minute engine firing of
the spacecraft's main rocket engine last week, and successful
completion of launch-like vibration testing for Cassini's
Huygens probe. This conical payload of science instruments,
provided by the European Space Agency (ESA), will be deployed
from the orbiter and parachute to the surface of Saturn's moon
Titan, 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 keeping
the program on track to complete the orbiter and probe on
schedule and within budget," said
Richard J. Spehalski, Cassini program manager at JPL, which
manages the effort for NASA. "Our challenge in 1996 will be
to maintain our momentum as all the spacecraft elements come

Last week, Cassini's attitude and articulation control
subsystem (AACS) was integrated. The AACS allows the
spacecraft to maintain its bearings in space. It joined the
already-installed power and pyro subsystem, which governs the
flow of electricity through seven miles of cable that will
link all of Cassini's systems, and the command and data
subsystem, which acts essentially as Cassini's brain,
controlling all spacecraft functions.

While Cassini engineers and technicians assemble the
spacecraft in the clean room, engineers and technicians in an
adjacent shirtsleeve environment are remotely controlling the
new subsystems in tests that run each through the commands and
phenomena they will experience in flight.

This complex computer-based ground system largely
resembles the one that will be used to control Cassini once in
flight, and it allows the Cassini team to identify problems
and make changes needed in the flight operations system well
ahead of launch.

Last week also marked the successful completion of a
critical 200-minute test firing of one of the two spacecraft
rocket engines, demonstrating the capability of the main
engine assembly including the successful operation of JPL-
developed engine gimbal actuators -- sophisticated devices
that fine-tune the motion and pointing of the spacecraft's two

The engine gimbal actuators, based upon the design of
unique actuators used on the orbiter spacecraft for the Viking
missions to Mars in the mid-1970s, come into play during
spacecraft course corrections and in the critical braking
maneuver that Cassini must perform when it arrives at Saturn
in July 2004.

There, Cassini must fire one of its engines for about 90
minutes to brake into orbit around the ringed planet. The two
redundant engines are mounted side-by-side at the base of the
Saturn orbiter, and the engine that fires must be pointed so
that the rocket thrust is directed through the spacecraft's
center of gravity. The engine gimbal actuators, responding to
commands from the attitude and articulation control subsystem,
will make constant minute adjustments in the engine's position
to compensate for the shifting weight of more than 6,800
pounds (3,100 kilograms) of propellant.

Important tests of Cassini's multiple-frequency radio
system were also successfully completed this month at JPL. In
addition, ESA, assembling the Huygens probe in Otterbrun,
Germany, received hardware for U.S.-provided Titan science
instruments -- a qualification model of the gas
chromatograph/mass spectrometer from NASA's Goddard Space
Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, and the flight model of the
descent imager/spectral radiometer from the University of

Integration of Cassini components will continue
through October this year, readying the spacecraft for dynamic
and other testing in the space-like environment of the solar-
thermal vacuum chamber at JPL. The spacecraft will be shipped
to Cape Canaveral, FL, in late April 1997 for an October 1997

Cassini is a joint mission of NASA, ESA and the
Italian Space Agency (ASI). The main Cassini spacecraft will
orbit Saturn to provide four years of close-up data on the
moons, rings, planet and Saturn's magnetic and charged
particle environment. The Huygens Titan probe is provided by
ESA, and Cassini's sophisticated radio antenna is provided by
ASI. JPL manages the overall mission for NASA.


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