The Cassini-Huygens mission is designed to explore the Saturnian system and all its elements: the planet and its atmosphere, rings and magnetosphere, and a large number of its moons, particularly Titan and the icy satellites.
The exploration of Titan is at the very heart of the Cassini-Huygens mission. Titan encounters are used for making the gravity-assist orbit changes that shape the orbital tour around Saturn. During each Titan fly-by, the Orbiter will perform a set of in orbit and remote sensing observations of the surface, the atmosphere and the plasma environment.
The detailed atmosphere descent data set acquired by the Probe and the global coverage that will be provided by the Orbiter observations during targeted fly-bys will provide a unique wealth of new scientific information. It will substantially increase our knowledge of Titan, the enigmatic planet-sized moon shrouded by a thick, hazy and chemically active atmosphere.
Folowing the successful landing of Huygens it is anticipated that further details on the surface and possibly the interior of Titan will be discovered.
Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695), was a Dutch astronomer who discovered Saturn's rings and, in 1655, its largest moon Titan.
NASA's Saturn orbiter is named after the French/Italian astronomer Jean-Dominique Cassini, who discovered several Saturnian satellites and a number of ring features, including the eponymous Cassini division, during the period 1671-1685.
SpacecraftBuilt by an industrial consortium led by Aerospatiale, the Probe System comprises two principal elements:
The Probe itself consists of the Entry Assembly (ENA) cocooning the Descent Module (DM). The ENA provides Orbiter attachment, umbilical separation and ejection, cruise and entry thermal protection, and entry deceleration control. It is jettisoned after entry, releasing the Descent Module.
The DM comprises an aluminium shell and inner structure containing all the experiments and Probe support subsystems, including the parachute descent and spin control devices.
The PSE consists of:
OrbitTo reach Saturn, Cassini-Huygens used a series of gravity-assist manoeuvres, with the following swing-bys: