A stratospheric balloon experiment to test the Huygens atmospheric structure instrument (HASI)

Fulchignoni, M.; Aboudan, A.; Angrilli, F.; Antonello, M.; Bastianello, S.; Bettanini, C.; Bianchini, G.; Colombatti, G.; Ferri, F.; Flamini, E.; Gaborit, V.; Ghafoor, N.; Hathi, B.; Harri, A.-M.; Lehto, A.; Lion Stoppato, P.F.; Patel, M.R. and Zarnecki, J.C. (2004). A stratospheric balloon experiment to test the Huygens atmospheric structure instrument (HASI). Planetary and Space Science, 52(9) pp. 867–880.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pss.2004.02.009


We developed a series of balloon experiments parachuting a 1:1 scale mock-up of the Huygens probe from an altitude just over 30 km to simulate at planetary scale the final part of the descent of the probe through Titan's lower atmosphere. The terrestrial atmosphere represents a natural laboratory where most of the physical parameters meet quite well the bulk condition of Titan's environment, in terms of atmosphere composition, pressure and mean density ranges, though the temperature range will be far higher.
The probe mock-up consists of spares of the HASI sensor packages, housekeeping sensors and other dedicated sensors, and also incorporates the Huygens Surface Science Package (SSP) Tilt sensor and a modified version of the Beagle 2 UV sensor, for a total of 77 acquired sensor channels, sampled during ascent, drift and descent phase.
An integrated data acquisition and instrument control system, simulating the HASI data-processing unit (DPU), has been developed, based on PC architecture and soft-real-time application. Sensor channels were sampled at the nominal HASI data rates, with a maximum rate of 1 kHz. Software has been developed for data acquisition, onboard storage and telemetry transmission satisfying all requests for real-time monitoring, diagnostic and redundancy.
The mock-up of the Huygens probe mission was successfully launched for the second time (first launch in summer 2001, see Gaborit et al., 2001) with a stratospheric balloon from the Italian Space Agency Base “Luigi Broglio” in Sicily on May 30, 2002, and recovered with all sensors still operational. The probe was lifted to an altitude of 32 km and released to perform a parachuted descent lasting 53 min, to simulate the Huygens mission at Titan. Preliminary aerodynamic study of the probe has focused upon the achievement of a descent velocity profile reproducing the expected profile of Huygens probe descent into Titan.
We present here the results of this experiment discussing their relevance in the analysis of the data which will be obtained during the Huygens mission at Titan.

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