Cassini to Begin Final Five Orbits Around Saturn

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will enter new territory in its final mission phase, the Grand Finale, as it prepares to embark on a set of ultra-close passes through Saturn’s upper atmosphere with its final five orbits around the planet. Cassini will make the first of these five passes over Saturn at 9:22 p.m. PDT Sunday, Aug. 13 (12:22 a.m. EDT Monday, Aug. 14). The spacecraft’s point of closest approach to Saturn during these passes will be between about 1,010 and 1,060 miles (1,630 and 1,710 kilometers) above Saturn’s cloud tops. The spacecraft is expected to encounter atmosphere dense enough to require the use of its small rocket thrusters to maintain stability — conditions similar to those encountered during many of Cassini’s close flybys of Saturn’s moon Titan, which has its own dense atmosphere.”