The Cassini spacecraft has picked up an assist on its 2.2 billion-mile trip to Saturn from another heavenly body - Venus.

The spacecraft swept within 176 miles of Venus on Sunday, adding 16,300 mph to its own velocity, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said. The "gravity assist" allows Cassini to use a planet's gravity like a sling shot and shorten its journey.A second Venus "gravity assist" is set for June 24, 1999.