I just read about Cassini's upcoming orbital maneuvers where there's a nice animation showing Cassini's orbits. Here's a frame of the animation:

Cassini orbits

I see a lot of plane changes, i.e. the probe's orbital plane is rotated very often with respect to its previous revolution. I always thought that these maneuvers are very expensive (need to spend quite a lot of fuel): you need to fire around the point where you want the old and new orbits to "touch", the plane change axis, and from what I remember from the days when I was playing KSP that these involve quite a lot of delta-v.

So how are the Cassini people able to pull that off? Either they do have more than enough fuel left to spend it that way, or there must be a way reduce the cost of these maneuvers that I'm not aware of yet.

Is there a way to reduce the amount of fuel spent to rotate the orbital plane to such extreme degrees?


Titan. This is all done using gravity assists from Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Only tiny amounts of propellant are used to target the Titan flybys.

  • $\begingroup$ Very clever. I was able to find a few articles about that. $\endgroup$ – DarkDust Nov 24 '16 at 8:36

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