logo wat
technology
may 04, 2017 - ESA

Listening for Cassini

ESA’s sensitive tracking antennas at New Norcia, Western Australia, and Malargüe, Argentina (seen here in 2012), are being called in to help gather crucial science data during Cassini’s last months in orbit, dubbed the Grand Finale.

The mission will end on 15 September, when Cassini plunges into Saturn’s atmosphere, bringing to a close one of the most successful exploration endeavours ever (more information).

The craft isn’t exiting meekly, however, and its Grand Finale orbits are proving to be immensely valuable. On 26 April, Cassini made the first-ever daring dive between Saturn and its beautiful and enigmatic ring system.

Starting next week, #esa ground stations will work with NASA’s Deep Space Network to record radio signals transmitted by Cassini across 1.6 billion km during 22 communication ‘passes’.

The recorded signals will have been affected by crossing or bouncing off Saturn’s atmosphere or rings. Variations in the strength and frequency contain valuable information on the composition, state and structure of whatever they have passed through.

In addition, tiny wobbles in Cassini’s orbit owing to the varying pull of gravity can be teased from the signals, helping to build our understanding of the planet’s interior.
The #esa stations listened late last year and earlier this year for radio science passes while Cassini was outside the ring system.

“We are just now getting into a new mode of radio science, with much more accurate measurements of gravitational effects compared to previous where the effects of ring density 

More information on the press release