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The insulation provides thermal protection during the 7 year journey, via Venus, Earth and Jupiter, to Saturn, and during the 22-day coast phase after separation from the Saturn Orbiter before entering Titan's atmosphere.
The intense aerothermodynamic heating of entry will rapidly vaporise the MLI, and the 20 mm-thick sponge-textured brown tiles will insulate the carbon fibre internal structure and the descent module from the intense radiation of the hypersonic shock wave. The variation of tile colours, caused by the baking process in manufacturing, has no effect on the thermal properties. The white area consists of painted aluminium plates glued to the tiles as a small, controlled heat leak to fine-tune the thermal design for optimum internal temperatures during cruise.