A facility for simulating Titan's environment

by Wasiak, F. C.; Luspay-Kuti, A.; Welivitiya, W. D. D. P.; Roe, L. A.; Chevrier, V. F.; Blackburn, D. G.; Cornet, T.

As a result of measurements acquired by the Cassini-Huygens mission of Titan's near surface atmospheric composition and temperature, Titan conditions can now be simulated in the laboratory and samples can subsequently be subjected to those conditions. Titan demonstrates an active hydrological-like cycle with its thick atmosphere, dynamic clouds, polar lakes of methane and ethane, moist regolith, and extensive fluvial erosive features. Unlike Earth, Titan's hydrological-like cycle likely involves several constituents, primarily methane and ethane. Here the properties of a new Titan simulation facility are presented, including conceptual methodology, design, implementation, and performance results. The chamber maintains Titan's surface temperature and pressure, and the sample cryogenic liquids undergoing experimentation are condensed within the chamber itself. During the experiments, the evaporation rates of the sample liquids are directly determined by continually measuring mass. Constituents are analyzed utilizing a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), and vapor concentrations are determined using a gas chromatograph fitted with a Flame Ionization Detector (FID). All pertinent data is logged via computer. Under laboratory conditions, the direct measurements of the evaporation rates of methane, ethane, and mixtures thereof can be achieved. Among the processes to be studied are the effects of regolith on transport from the subsurface to the atmosphere, the freezing point depression effects of dissolved nitrogen, and the solubility of various relevant organic compounds.

Advances in Space Research
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1879-1948; 0273-1177