PR 08-1997: Huygens Space Probe Ready to Leave Europe
3 March 1997The European Space Agency's Huygens probe is ready to be shipped to the Kennedy Space Center. On arrival, it will undergo special tests and then be mated with the Cassini Saturn orbiter for launch in October 1997 on a Titan IVB/Centaur rocket.
Over the past year, the Huygens probe has been integrated and extensively tested at the facilities of Daimler Benz Aerospace Dornier Satellitensysteme in Ottobrunn near Munich. It was designed and developed for ESA by a European industrial consortium led by Aerospatiale (F) as prime contractor.
The European activities have been successfully completed and this is to be formalised by the Flight Acceptance Review which will release the probe for shipment to the USA. To mark this important milestone a press briefing is scheduled for 26 March at 10:00 hours at Daimler-Benz Aerospace Dornier Satellitensysteme in Ottobrunn. The detailed programme of the press briefing is attached.
Note For Editors
Background facts about the Cassini Huygens mission Huygens is a medium-sized mission of ESA's Horizons 2000 programme for space science, and a contribution to the joint NASA ESA Cassini mission.
Christiaan Huygens discovered Saturn s moon Titan in 1655, and the mission named after him aims to land a 343 kilogram probe on Titan carrying a package of scientific instruments through the atmosphere. Six sets of instruments will analyse the chemical composition of the atmosphere, observe the weather and topography of Titan, and examine the nature of its surface. Titan is larger than the planet Mercury, and its unique atmosphere, rich in nitrogen and hydrocarbons, may resemble the atmosphere of the primitive Earth, before life began.
Nominal Dates for the Huygens Mission are as Follows
- Launch - 6 October 1997
- Arrival at Saturn - 1 July 2004
- Release of Huygens - 6 November 2004
- Entry into Titan's atmosphere - 27 November 2004
The Saturn Orbiter, the other element in the Cassini mission, will relay the signals from Huygens to the Earth, before settling down to prolonged observations of Saturn and its rings and moons. European and American scientists are partners in all the experiments, both in the Orbiter and in the Huygens Probe.
Farthest out for Europe
Huygens will travel to a greater distance from the Sun than any previous ESA mission, out to the orbit of Saturn at 1400 million kilometres, or nearly ten times the Sun Earth distance. For comparison, the farthest ranging mission at present is Ulysses, orbiting over the poles of the Sun and out to the orbit of Jupiter, 800 million kilometres from the Sun. As no other mission planned or contemplated by ESA at present will go as far as Saturn, Huygens is likely to hold the European record for many years.