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Aussie space centre captures Cassini's end

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September 15, 2017

Canberra's Deep Space Communication Complex will beam live footage of NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

Canberra's deep space station is on a countdown to begin beaming live footage of the final hours of NASA's Cassini spacecraft before it burns up in Saturn's atmosphere.

The Deep Space Communication Complex will train its massive antenna dishes on the NASA spacecraft from about 1.15pm (AEST) on Friday, for the final hours of its 20-year mission to study the ringed planet and its nearby moons.

Live data will be streamed for the first time from Cassini via Canberra to the world in the early evening before the bus-sized spacecraft uses its last drops of fuel to manoeuvre directly into Saturn's atmosphere and begins its expected disintegration.

Travelling at more than 110,000km/h, scientists expect it will only take minutes for Cassini to break apart and melt at about 10pm.

The Canberra space complex was given the key role of transmitting Cassini's final images of Saturn because the planet will be hovering above Australia on Friday.

Other space stations in Madrid and California will also help monitor Cassini.

The $US3.26 billion ($A4.06 billion) mission has given scientists vital information about two of Saturn's moons, Titan and Enceladus, as well as the planet itself and its icy rings.

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