Huygens probe test successful

September 17, 2004
Huygens probe test successful

ESA's Huygens probe, now orbiting Saturn on board the NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini spacecraft, is in good health and successfully passed its fifteenth ‘In-Flight Checkout’ on 14 September 2004.

This in-flight checkout procedure was the last but one planned before separation of the Huygens probe from Cassini in December this year, and it included some specific activities that were intended to prepare for the separation. The main difference in this procedure from previous checkouts was that there was a test of the Master Timer Unit (MTU).
Because Huygens will spend three weeks coasting towards Titan following separation from the Cassini orbiter, its systems and instruments are powered down.

The MTU is the ‘triple-redundant’ alarm-clock that has the most important job of waking up Huygens a few hours before its entry into Titan’s atmosphere.

Image: Huygens will be the first spacecraft to land on a world in the outer Solar System. In January 2005, it will land on the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, and the only moon in the Solar System to possess a thick atmosphere.

The gold-coloured foil blanket will help to control the probe's temperature during the interplanetary cruise phase. The heat-resistant tiles covering the front shield are hidden underneath the foil and will provide protection against the very high temperatures that will be generated during the entry into Titan's atmosphere.

The checkout also included some specific payload activities required to configure the Huygens instruments before separation.

The procedure was carried out live, with Cassini transmitting the data to Earth in real-time. However the data arrived on Earth with an 80-minute delay as this is the time taken for light, and therefore radio signals, to travel the distance between Saturn and Earth.

The preliminary analysis of the real-time data received, performed within 12 hours after the test, indicates that the MTU test was successful, and that all instruments performed as expected.

Source: ESA

Explore further: Huygens to begin its final journey to Titan

Related Stories

Huygens to begin its final journey to Titan

December 7, 2004

One year after Mars Express’ arrival at Mars, the mighty rules of celestial mechanics have again set Christmas as the date for a major ESA event in deep space. At 1.25 billion km from Earth, after a 7-year journey through ...

Cassini Saturnalia

April 26, 2010

Six years ago, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft began orbiting Saturn. Scientists are celebrating the data and detailed images the mission has provided of the planet, its famous ring, and its many moons.

Huygens sets off with correct spin and speed

January 11, 2005

On Christmas Day 2004, the Cassini spacecraft flawlessly released ESA’s Huygens probe, passing another challenging milestone for Cassini-Huygens mission. But, with no telemetry data from Huygens, how do we know the separation ...

Huygens Probe Successfully Detached to Begin Its Final Journey

December 25, 2004

The ESA's Huygens probe has successfully detached from NASA's Cassini orbiter early this morning to begin a 21-day journey to Saturn's moon Titan. NASA's Deep Space Network tracking stations in Madrid, Spain, and Goldstone, ...

Huygens probe ready to detach from Cassini mother craft

December 24, 2004

After a seven-year and 3.2 billion km journey from Earth to Saturn, ESA’s Huygens probe, travelling on board NASA’s Cassini mother craft and powered through an umbilical cable, is now ready to separate and continue its ...

Scientists prepare for Huygens descent on Titan

January 4, 2005

University of Arizona scientists, working on one of the most stunning robotic space missions ever attempted, head for Germany next week. Their experiments ride on the Huygens probe to Saturn's giant moon, Titan, part of ...

Recommended for you

Saturn's bulging core implies moons younger than thought

December 7, 2016

Freshly harvested data from NASA's Cassini mission reveals that Saturn's bulging core and twisting gravitational forces offer clues to the ages of the planet's moons. Astronomers now believe that the ringed planet's moons ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.