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NASA Contacts Pioneer 10 Probe

Status Report From: Ames Research Center
Posted: Saturday, March 2, 2002

From Larry Lasher, Pioneer Project Manager
Subject: Pioneer-10 30 Year Launch Anniversary Track

Pioneer-10 was successfully contacted today. Yesterday, about 3pm PST a 200 Kw uplink transmission from Goldstone California, the 70 meter DSN antenna DSS-14, was sent to Pioneer-10 and 22 hours later in Madrid Spain at the DSN 70 meter antenna DSS-63 the confirmation of contact was received. From a distance of 79.7 AU DSS-63 acquired the signal on time at about -183 dbm. They spent an hour peaking the signal (-178.5 dbm) and then they were able to lock up telemetry at 16 bps at an SNR of -0.5 db. Tracking continued until the elevation was about 20 degrees but enough telemetry was received to verify the state of Pioneer-10. Incidentally, the SETI institute also saw the signal from Arecibo in Puerto Rico. For years they have used Pioneer-10 as a reference for their investigations.

The spacecraft is still healthy. The power is still sufficient to support the loads with the bus voltage at about 26 volts (nominal is 28). The uplink from DSS-14 was received by the spacecraft at -131.7 dbm. The spacecraft is extremely cold, with many of the temperature readings at the bottom of their scales. Two commands were sent yesterday from Goldstone and both were confirmed to have been executed by the spacecraft. One scientific instrument is still on, the Geiger Tube Telescope, and Dr. James Van Allen, the PI, will be happy to hear he has some more data to look at.

Thirty years ago the first mission to explore the outer planets, specifically the planet Jupiter, was launched from KSC. Many of the people who designed, built and flew the spacecraft have passed on but Pioneer-10 continues. From ARC and the Pioneer Project we send our thanks to the many people at the DSN (Goldstone and Madrid) and JPL who made it possible to hear the spacecraft signal again.

Dave Lozier, Pioneer Flight Director

Related Links

  • 27 February 2002: NASA to Try to Contact Pioneer 10 Spacecraft Again, NASA ARC

  • 20 April 2001: NASA Establishes Contact with Famed Pioneer 10 Spacecraft, NASA ARC

  • 24 March 2000: Pioneer 10 Status, NASA ARC

  • Pioneer 10 Status, NASA ARC

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