ALSO READNASA's Cassini spacecraft to dive inside Saturn's rings for mission finale Nasa's Cassini spacecraft prepares to take final plunge into Saturn After revealing Saturn, Nasa's Cassini set for final dive on September 15 Nasa's new movie shows Cassini's first dive over Saturn NASA's Cassini spacecraft probe captures Saturn's dawn in stunning image
The spacecraft's fateful dive is the final beat in the mission's Grand Finale, 22 weekly dives, which began in late April, through the gap between Saturn and its rings.
No spacecraft has ever ventured so close to the planet before.
Cassini will enter Saturn's atmosphere approximately one minute earlier, at an altitude of about 1,915 kilometres above the planet's estimated cloud tops.
When Cassini first begins to encounter Saturn's atmosphere, the spacecraft's attitude control thrusters will begin firing in short bursts to work against the thin gas and keep Cassini's saucer-shaped high-gain antenna pointed at Earth to relay the mission's precious final data.
As the atmosphere thickens, the thrusters will be forced to ramp up their activity, going from 10 per cent of their capacity to 100 per cent in the span of about a minute.
When the antenna points just a few fractions of a degree away from Earth, communications will be severed permanently, NASA said.
The predicted altitude for loss of signal is approximately 1,500 kilometres above Saturn's cloud tops.
From that point, the spacecraft will begin to burn up like a meteor. Within about 30 seconds following loss of signal, the spacecraft will begin to come apart. Within a couple of minutes, all remnants of the spacecraft are expected to be completely consumed in the atmosphere of Saturn, NASA said.
Due to the travel time for radio signals from Saturn, which changes as both Earth and the ringed planet travel around the Sun, events currently take place there 83 minutes before they are observed on Earth.
This means that, although the spacecraft will begin to tumble and go out of communication at 6:31 a.m. EDT at Saturn, the signal from that event will not be received at Earth until 83 minutes later.
"The spacecraft's final signal will be like an echo. It will radiate across the solar system for nearly an hour and a half after Cassini itself has gone," said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"Even though we'll know that, at Saturn, Cassini has already met its fate, its mission isn't truly over for us on Earth as long as we're still receiving its signal," Maize added.
Live mission commentary and video from Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mission Control will air on NASA TV and the agency's website from 7 to 8:30 a.m. EDT (4.30 to 6 pm India time)on Friday.