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: Under Saturnian moon's icy crust lies a 'global' ocean

Related Stories

Under Saturnian moon's icy crust lies a 'global' ocean

September 15, 2015

By measuring with exquisite precision the tiny wobbles of Saturn's moon Enceladus – whose cosmic quavers are detectable only in high-resolution images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft – Cornell University researchers ...

The gas (and ice) giant Neptune

September 14, 2015

Neptune is the eight planet from our Sun, one of the four gas giants, and one of the four outer planets in our Solar System. Since the "demotion" of Pluto by the IAU to the status of a dwarf planet – and/or Plutoid and ...

The Planet Saturn

August 3, 2015

The farthest planet from the Sun that be observed with the naked eye, the existence of Saturn has been known for thousands of years. And much like all celestial bodies that can be observed with the aid of instruments – ...

Titan's was atmosphere created by gases escaping the core

March 5, 2015

A decade ago, a tiny but mighty probe descended into the soupy atmosphere of Titan. This moon of Saturn is of great interest to astrobiologists because its chemistry and liquid cycle remind us of what the early Earth could ...

Cassini sees sunny seas on Titan

October 30, 2014

( —As it soared past Saturn's large moon Titan recently, NASA's Cassini spacecraft caught a glimpse of bright sunlight reflecting off hydrocarbon seas.

Recommended for you


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.