Prof. Dr.-Ing.
Stefanos Fasoulas


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Sabine Klinkner

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Alfred Krabbe

Prof. Fasoulas

Larissa Schunter

Prof. Klinkner

Annegret Möller

Prof. Krabbe

Barbara Klett


Dr. Thomas Wegmann


Institut für Raumfahrtsysteme
Pfaffenwaldring 29
70569 Stuttgart

Tel. +49 711 685-69604
Fax +49 711 685-63596

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Cassini is Approaching the Finish Line

The NASA/ESA Cassini mission is nearing its end and preparing for the last five orbits around Saturn.
August 15, 2017; Julia Dancer (

The NASA/ESA Cassini mission is nearing its end and preparing for the last five orbits around Saturn. Cassini finished its 288th orbit on August 14th and flew through the ring plane inside of Saturn's main ring for the 18th time. The location of Cassini's pass through the ring plane and its distance from the edge of the atmosphere varies. While Cassini has maintained a greater distance from Saturn until now, it will cross the ring plane at a distance of only a few hundred kilometers from the planet. Cassini already "feels" the outer gas layers of Saturn and its speed will reach more than 100,000 km/h.

Onboard, Cassini carries the dust sensor "Cosmic Dust Analyzer" (CDA), which is operated by IRS. This sensor's task is the characterization of the microparticle environment in the gap between Saturn and its rings. CDA has already been able to collect excellent data during eight ring plane crossings. The results show that only nano and submicrometer large particles occur. In addition, the composition of the dust particles could be measured. As shown by simulations, these particles largely stem from the main ring, where they are generated through collisions, become electrically charged, and then drift inward to end up as Saturn's "ring rain." The measurement of the debris of Saturn's main ring is important for the determination of the ring system's age.

During the last five ring passes, CDA will collect important data about ring formation and about the interaction of the dust particles with plasma and with Saturn's magnet field. Then, on September 15th, the Cassini probe will enter Saturn's atmosphere like a meteor and go silent forever. PD Dr.-Ing. Ralf Srama's work group will follow the reception of Cassini's last signals live at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Interested parties in Stuttgart can watch this special event through NASA TV livestream.

Under the leadership of PD Dr.-Ing. Ralf Srama, the University of Stuttgart's IRS is responsible for the scientific planning, mission operations, and data analysis of the Cosmic Dust Analyzer onboard Cassini. The project is funded through the Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V..


Image: NASA / JPL. Position of the Cassini probe in the ring plane as it passes through the rings. Saturn and the edge of the atmosphere are located on the bottom border and the D-Ring of Saturn's main ring represents the top border. 


Site with details about the end of the Cassini mission:


Milestones of the Cassini tour:


Informations about Cassini's current position:

The cosmic dust workgroup's website: