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Position Sensors Help Cassini Mission Provide Clues to Planetary Formation

ImagePotentiometers
Novotechnik U.S.
Southborough, MA
508-485-2244
www.novotechnik.com
The Cassini-Huygens spacecraft launched in 1997 and reached Saturn in 2004 for a four-year mission to explore the ringed planet, its rings, its complex magnetic environment, and one of its moons, Titan. The Huygens probe, delivered to the Saturnian moon by the Cassini spacecraft, collected data that hopefully will reveal information about planetary formation and perhaps even the early days of Earth.

The probe also sent back video taken during its descent and on the surface of Titan. To control magnetospheric imaging during Huygens’ descent into the thick yellow-orange atmosphere of Titan, potentiometers from Novotechnik were used to position the turntable carrying the Low Energy Magnetospheric Measurement Systems (LEMMS). The LEMMS system was mounted on a 360° rotating platform to ensure intrinsic stability with the space probe rotating continuously around its longitudinal axis. The measurement system covered every point of the 360° with no “dead zone” — an area where no readings could be made.

A stepper motor that was continuously monitored by a rotary potentiometer drove the turntable. The LEMMS, in turn, provided a series of three-dimensional measurements that defined the direction of incidence, energy, and intensity of ions and electrons entering the moon’s atmosphere to be measured. The potentiometers met the seven-year mission length requirement and provided linearity values of ±0.025% and repeatability of 0.01° with accuracy to 0.01°.

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