Mission officials at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena, California, announce that the plasma spectrometer instrument aboard the Cassini spacecraft was turned off on Friday, June 1, due to unexpected voltage shifts that activated a circuit breaker.
The device shut down in order to avoid damage, providing mission scientists with enough time to come up with a feasible solution to fix the problem. JPL engineers were able to return the instrument to normal operations by Saturday, June 2.
This is not the first time the plasma instrument shuts down. A similar problem caused it to cease operations back in June 2011, and it wasn't until March 2012 that the issue was solved. The voltage shifts are unlikely to have any damaging effects on the spacecraft.
Cassini has been studying the gas giant Saturn, its ring system and its moons since achieving orbital insertion around the planet, on July 1, 2004. Having already exceeded its planned mission duration by a wide margin, it is now operating in an extended science phase.