A mission to return to Titan after Cassini-Huygens is a high priority for exploration, as recent Cassini-Huygens discoveries have further revolutionized our understanding of the Titan system and its potential for harbouring the Solar System.
The Baseline of TSSM mission design uses an EVEEGA-SEP trajectory launching in September 2020 and arriving at Saturn 9 years later in October 2029. This is one of the available Earth-to-Saturn transfer options from the year 2018 through 2022. Upon Saturn arrival, in October 2029, the orbiter’s chemical propulsion system places the flight system into orbit around Saturn, followed by approximately two years of Saturn tour science. This is the Saturn Tour Phase, which is characterized by the deployment of the in situ elements, a minimum of seven close Enceladus flybys and 16 Titan flybys. During this period repeated satellite gravity assists and manoeuvres reduce the energy needed to insert into orbit around Titan. As it completes its flyby by Enceladus, the Titan orbiter will analyze its plumes directly.
The montgolfière, a hot air balloon, will be released on approach to the first Titan flyby for ballistic entry into Titan for its six Earth months’ mission from April 2030 to October 2030. Based on Cassini-Huygens discoveries, the montgolfière should circumnavigate Titan at least once during its nominal lifetime at its deployment latitude of about 20°N, 10 kilometers above titanic terrain.
As far as the lake lander is concerned, it will be released by the orbiter on its second Titan flyby, targeted to Kraken Mare, a northern polar lake at about 72°N. The lake lander will experience a parachute descent like the Huygens probe in 2005. A few hours later, a muffled splash signals the beginning of the first floating exploration of an extraterrestrial sea, consisting of liquid hydrocarbons. The battery-operated lander’s principal function is to sample and analyze organics on the surface for a period of about 9 hours, including 6 hrs of atmospheric descent and 3 or more hrs on the surface.
Both probes’ data are relayed to a Titan orbiter. They are equipped to unveil Titan’s mysteries with instruments for imaging, radar profiling, and surface as well as atmospheric sampling, much more powerful and more complete than done by Cassini.