For Release: July 1, 2004
Researchers and engineers at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland are excited about the role they played in helping the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft become the first Saturn orbiter. Cassini entered orbit around Saturn on June 30 and began a four-year tour of Saturn, its rings and 31 known moons.
NASA Glenn's Communications Technology Division contributed to the spacecraft by developing a 32 GHz traveling wave tube (TWT) and its power supply, together called a traveling wave tube amplifier (TWTA), and providing flight hardware to the Cassini mission. TWTAs are an advanced type of vacuum tube amplifier that offer lighter weight, higher reliability, and higher efficiency than solid state amplifiers at high radiofrequencies and power levels.
Glenn provided technical support to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in the development of two 8.4 GHz traveling wave tubes and their power supply. The 8.4 GHz TWTAs provide the radio link to earth. The 32 GHz TWTA will be used, along with the 8.4 GHz TWTAs in radio science and gravitational wave experiments conducted when Cassini is in orbit around Saturn.
"At the time of the Cassini launch in 1997, this technology was revolutionary", said Dale Force, Glenn electronics engineer. "The 32 GHz TWT had three times the power of any previous source."
The Cassini spacecraft, including the orbiter and Huygens probe, is the most complex interplanetary spacecraft ever built. Cassini's payload represents a carefully chosen set of interrelating instruments that will address many major scientific questions about the Saturn system. Experiments in radio science using the 32 GHz and the 8.4 GHz TWTAs will give researchers clues to the composition and temperature of atmospheres and ionospheres of Saturn and its largest moon, Titan. The TWTAs are used in gravitational wave experiments and to investigate the solar system plasma.
NASA Glenn staff are also excited to see Cassini reach its destination since Glenn, in cooperation with other Government agencies, was responsible for providing the launch services for the Cassini mission. NASA Glenn was responsible for integrating the spacecraft with the launch vehicle and designing the necessary mission unique hardware and software modifications. On October 15, 1997 the Titan IV-B launch vehicle with a Glenn developed Centaur high-energy upper stage lifted Cassini out of Earth's gravitational pull, placed it into Earth orbit and sent it on the first leg of its journey.
Glenn involvement with Cassini began in 1990 with the jettison testing of the Titan IV payload fairing. To accommodate the fairings great size (86 ft. tall; 16 ft. diameter) researchers conducted the tests at NASA Glenn's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio in the Space Power Facility.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC.
For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, visit:
For more information about Glenn's involvement with the Cassini mission, visit:
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