Cassini completed its initial four-year mission to explore the Saturn System in June 2008 and the first extended mission, called the Cassini Equinox Mission, in September 2010. Now, the healthy spacecraft is seeking to make exciting new discoveries in a second extended mission called the Cassini Solstice Mission. The mission’s extension, which goes through September 2017, is named for the Saturnian summer solstice occurring in May 2017. The northern summer solstice marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere. Since Cassini arrived at Saturn just after the planet’s northern winter solstice, the extension will allow for the first study of a complete seasonal period.
Cassini launched in October 1997 with the European Space Agency’s Huygens probe. The probe was equipped with six instruments to study Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. It landed on Titan’s surface on Jan. 14, 2005, and returned spectacular results. Meanwhile, Cassini’s 12 instruments have returned a daily stream of data from Saturn’s system since arriving at Saturn in 2004. Among the most important targets of the mission are the moons Titan and Enceladus, as well as some of Saturn’s other icy moons. Towards the end of the mission, Cassini will make closer studies of the planet and its rings.
Approximately 1,300 academic and industrial partners in 16 European countries are participating in 32 different states in the US. The mission is managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and for ESA by the European Space Technology and Research Center in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. The Italian Space Agency contributed the orbiter’s 4 meter diameter high-gain antenna for communications and portions of other orbiter science experiments. The United States supplied batteries and two science instruments for Huygens.
- The UltraViolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) instrument
- UVIS instrument Principal Investigator, Larry Esposito
- Operation/control of the UVIS instrument and its experiments
The Cassini Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) is part of the remote sensing payload of the Cassini Orbiter spacecraft.
UVIS science objectives include investigation of the:
- Chemistry, clouds, and energy balance of the Titan and Saturn atmospheres
- Neutrals in the magnetosphere
- Surfaces and tenuous atmospheres of icy satellites
- Deuterium/hydrogen (D/H) ratio for Titan and Saturn
- Structure and evolution of Saturn’s rings
For more information about the Cassini mission, see:
Launch date: October 15, 1997
Launch location: Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Launch vehicle: Titan IV-B/Centaur
Mission target: Saturn
Mission duration: 7 year journey to Saturn, 10 years+ in Saturn System
Other key dates:
- Saturn orbit insertion: July 1, 2004
Other organizations involved:
- Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research