A safe splashdown will be critical for this highly ambitious space mission. (NASA)

How would you land a robot submarine to explore Saturn's moon Titan? An exclusive NASA research paper in the April issue of The Aeronautical Journal explains the bold space mission concept for the Titan Mare Explorer.

The breathtakingly ambitious project to send a robot submarine to explore the seas of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan has been recently announced by NASA. The sub will be taken to Saturn in an unmanned probe launched from the US. Once in orbit around Titan, the shuttle and its payload will descend through the moon's 180C atmosphere to its seas filled with hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane.


Splashdown testing

The scientist behind the project, Dr Ralph Lorenz has written an exclusive research paper for The Aeronautical Journal covering capsule splashdown testing for this project.

“Splashdown, decelerating a returning space vehicle with hydrodynamic forces in water, is a convenient means of ensuring modest landing loads without having to provide airbags or retrorockets to mitigate the hard decelerations that land surfaces would otherwise introduce. Splashdown is also the obvious means of delivering a vehicle to explore seas on other worlds, specifically the hydrocarbon seas on Saturn’s moon Titan. This paper will look at Test execution procedures and the performance of the data acquisition system.”

This article can be seen in the current April edition of The Aeronautical Journal alongside research papers about CFD simulations for X-31 wind-tunnel models, control of a stratospheric airship and a look at the flight dynamics of a hingeless rotor helicopter.

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23 April 2015