HASI descent test successfully completed
21 June 2001An aluminium mockup of ESA's Huygens probe was last week successfully launched by balloon from an Italian Space Agency base in Sicily. The mockup carried onboard a model of the HASI experiment, one of six experiments currently on its way to Titan.
After being lifted up to a height of 27 km by the balloon, the payload with the HASI mockup onboard was dropped, using a parachute, reaching an impact velocity on the ground of about 6 m/s similar to that of Huygens' impact at Titan's surface.
"Both the payload and the balloon were successfully recovered," said Marcello Fulchignoni, HASI prinicpal investigator, "with the payload having experienced a soft landing on an olive tree."
The purpose of the balloon launch was to verify HASI's sensors and to perform a realistic calibration in dynamic conditions similar to those of Huygens' descent into Titan's atmosphere. This test provided both a realistic data set for the descent trajectory and a test of the impact detection sequence of HASI's accelerometer.
The real HASI flight model was tested in a similar manner in 1995. Last weeks test was the first of a series of three organised by the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The next test will take place in Sicily next June, and the final test of this series is expected will be performed in Antartica in late 2002 or early 2003.