Cassini Spacecraft

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 31, 2022, 13:16

Cassini Spacecraft was instrumental in conducting one of the most ambitious space missions. The spacecraft was the fourth probe to visit Saturn but the first one to reveal incredible details about the planet and its icy moons. It was also the first probe ever to orbit Saturn.

Cassini Mission has many other firsts to its credit. Let's look at them and know what happened to this mission finally.

What Was Cassini Spacecraft?

Cassini was a three-axis stabilised Flagship-class robotic spacecraft. It was launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) agency in the USA. Cassini is categorised as one of NASA's costliest and most capable science spacecraft.

Cassini Spacecraft was launched to collaborate among NASA, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and the European Space Agency (ESA). It comprised two elements: the Cassini orbiter by NASA and the Huygens lander by ESA.

The spacecraft was equipped for 27 different scientific investigations. It carried several powerful cameras and instruments for this purpose.

What Was Cassini Mission?

Cassini Mission involved conducting space research. Named the Cassini-Huygens space research mission, it was a Flagship mission to explore the planet Saturn and its natural satellites and rings.

The first mission succeeded in landing a spacecraft in the outer solar system. It was also the first mission to sample an extraterrestrial ocean. Cassini entered Saturn's orbit in 2004 and stayed there till 2017. During this period, it sent back valuable data that helped scientists enhance their knowledge about Saturn and its system.

As part of the mission, Huygens landed on the surface of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. It is the farthest spacecraft landing from Earth to date.

Cassini Spacecraft Launching Location

Cassini Spacecraft was launched on 15 October 1997 from the Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida, USA.

Duration of the Cassini Mission

The overall duration of the Cassini Mission was 19 years and 335 days. It took the Cassini Spacecraft 6 years and 261 days to reach Saturn. After entering Saturn's orbit on 1 July 2004, it spent 13 years and 76 days orbiting the planet.

Discoveries of Cassini Spacecraft

  • Cassini Mission discovered organic molecules and water ice on Enceladus, a moon of Saturn.
  • The mission found huge lakes of liquid methane on Titan's surface.
  • Cassini Mission discovered two new rings and six new moons of Saturn.

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When and How Did the Cassini Mission End?

The Cassini Mission ended on 15 September 2017 when Cassini entered the upper atmosphere of Saturn. The Cassini Spacecraft was deliberately destroyed to prevent the risk of potential contamination of Saturn's natural satellites if the spacecraft were to crash into them unintentionally at the end of its operative lifespan.

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Facts to Know About Cassini Spacecraft

  • Cassini Mission was named after two astronomers: Giovanni Domenico Cassini, a French astronomer credited with discovering four moons of Saturn, and Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch astronomer who discovered Titan.
  • Huygens probe was the first object made by man to have landed in the outer solar system.
  • Cassini executed 2.5 million commands and collected 635 GB of scientific data.
  • Cassini Spacecraft completed 294 orbits around Saturn.
  • The spacecraft took 453048 images during the mission.
  • Huygens landed on Titan on 14 January 2005 using three parachutes.
  • Radio signals from Earth took 68 to 84 minutes to reach the Cassini Spacecraft and vice versa.

Cassini is regarded as a highly successful mission. This space mission transformed our understanding of Saturn and its moons and rings. It also helped scientists understand where life may exist in the Solar System.

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FAQs on Cassini Spacecraft

Q.1. What Was the Maximum Speed Clocked by the Cassini Spacecraft?

The Cassini Spacecraft clocked a maximum speed of 44 km per second.

Q.2. How Many Miles Did the Cassini Spacecraft Travel?

The Cassini Spacecraft travelled 4.9 billion miles.

Q.3. What Was the Launching Vehicle of the Cassini Spacecraft?

The Cassini Spacecraft was launched using a Titan IVB/Centaur rocket.

Q.4. What Was the Cost of the Cassini Mission?

The total cost of the Cassini Mission was around $3.26 billion.