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Instrument on Cassini craft working again

Monday - 3/19/2012, 4:48pm  ET

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - An instrument aboard the international Cassini spacecraft is making measurements again after nine months offline.

NASA said Monday the plasma spectrometer, which measures the energy of electrons and protons, is back in business after engineers spent months troubleshooting the problem.

The instrument was turned off as a precaution last June after Cassini experienced fluctuating voltage. The spacecraft used its other instruments to study Saturn and its many moons even with the spectrometer out of service.

An investigation pointed to "tin whiskers" growing on electronic components as the culprit, causing a short. NASA says these tiny metal filaments can grow in space just like on Earth.

Launched in 1997, Cassini has been exploring the Saturnian system since 2008.


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