Aerojet Rocketdyne Propulsion Guides Cassini on its Grand Finale at Saturn
"The success of this mission is a testament to the reliability of our thrusters," said
"Whenever I see images come back from Cassini, I can't help but think of the role our propulsion played in making them possible, from the liquid rocket engines used to launch the spacecraft two decades ago, to the thrusters used on its final journey," said
The R-4D derives its heritage from the Apollo program. The most recent variant, the High Performance Apogee Thruster (HiPAT™) rocket engine, is the world's premier apogee insertion engine for geosynchronous spacecraft. The MR-103H derives its heritage from the Voyager missions (40 years on orbit and still operational) and its most recent variation provides attitude control for a variety of Low-Earth Orbit, Medium-Earth Orbit, geosynchronous and interplanetary spacecraft including New Horizons. In late 2016, the Cassini spacecraft began its second to last set of orbits called the ring-grazing orbits. Following a gravity assist from Saturn's moon, Titan, the R-4D main engine was fired to fine-tune the trajectory, during which Cassini passed just outside of Saturn's main rings 20 times. It was the 183rd and last planned firing of the main engine, and all remaining maneuvers were completed using Aerojet Rocketdyne's MR-103H thrusters.
Today, the mission ended with a final dive into Saturn's atmosphere, ending a remarkable story of exploration.
The spacecraft has made startling discoveries throughout the Saturnian system, including
liquid methane seas on its largest moon, Titan, and a liquid water ocean beneath the frozen outer layer of its moon,
This is not the first time
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