Mission overview

The Cassini spacecraft swings in orbit around Saturn. Image: NASA.

The joint European-American mission Cassini-Huygens was launched 15 October 1997 onboard a Titan IV B/Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA, and after a seven-year flight arrived at its destination, Saturn. Cassini-Huygens travelled approximately 3.5 billion kilometres, performing two close fly-bys of Venus and one each of the Earth and Jupiter. Cassini-Huygens will investigate the giant gas planet Saturn and its system of moons.

Cassini-Huygens is a cooperative mission between the European, American and Italian space agencies (ESA, NASA, ASI). The mission consists of the Cassini orbiter and the descent probe Huygens. On 25 December 2004, Huygens separated from Cassini and on 14 January 2005 the probe entered the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan, landing on the surface after a three-hour descent.

There are a total of twelve scientific instruments onboard Cassini; a further six instruments are on Huygens. In Germany, several organisations are taking part in the mission, including the German Aerospace Center (DLR), institutes of the Max Planck Society (MPG) and several universities, as well as German space industry. These organisations have supplied several of the mission's instruments and/or components, or are working in specialised experimental areas. Germany's financial contribution to the mission amounts to approximately 115 million euros; the total cost of the mission amounted to approximately 3.3 billion dollars.


Launch:15 October 1997
Launch weight:5,820 kilograms (including 365 kilograms payload)
Fly-bys:2 x Venus, 1 each of Earth, Jupiter
Cassini enters
Saturn orbit:
1 July 2004
Separation of
Huygens probe:
25 December 2004
landing on Titan:
14 January 2005
Launch site: NASA Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Launch rocket:Titan IV B/Centaur
control center:
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California, USA
Ground stations:NASA Deep Space Network
Data reception:

No real-time operation; interim data storage in mass memory onboard Cassini with download during ground station contact periods

mission end:
June 2008; extended until 2017 
Cassini lifespan:4 years (approx. 76 Saturn orbits)

Last modified: 01/07/2011 11:53:44

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Elke Heinemann
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) - German Aerospace Center

Tel.: +49 2203 601-2867

Fax: +49 2203 601-3249
Ulrich Köhler
Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) - German Aerospace Center

Tel.: +49 30 67055-215

Fax: +49 30 67055-402


  • DLR Institute of Planetary Research / Cassini
  • NASA Cassini-Huygens Special
  • ESA Cassini-Huygens Special