Status Report

Pioneer 10 Update 12-05-2000

By SpaceRef Editor
December 5, 2000
Filed under ,

Jupiter and Ganymede
STATUS UPDATED: 1 December 2000
Pioneer 10
Launched 2 March 1972
Distance from Sun (1 December 2000): 76.61 AU
Speed relative to the Sun: 12.24 km/sec (27,380 mph)
Distance from Earth: 11.31 billion kilometers (7.025 billion miles) Round-trip Light Time: 20 hours 56 minutes
Pioneer 10 – “The Spacecraft That Will Not Die” – is featured in the Winter 2001 issue of the American Heritage of Invention & Technology magazine. The article written by Mark Wolverton follows the concept of the spacecraft born in the 1960s through its enduring legacy to this day and into the future.
Pioneer 6 will be featured on the Star Date radio broadcast by the University of Texas McDonald Observatory on December 16 – the 35th anniversary of its launch. Pioneer 6 is the oldest NASA spacecraft extant. There is a good possibility of contacting Pioneer 6 for about an hour or two near the date of its anniversary.
The latest Pioneer 10 activity was on September 10, when DSS 63 tracked the spacecraft. The station was not able to acquire the downlink. However, there was a report of two momentary receiver glitches at the Pioneer 10 frequency. This report was encouraging, since it means that the spacecraft signal is there, but it is still off Earth point. The Earth look angle (ELA) is estimated to be over 1.4 degrees. The downlink signal strength drops off rapidly after 1.0 degree.
The Earth is just starting to go back towards the PN 10 spin axis. As the year continues, the Earth will be closer in alignment with the spacecraft pointing and the tracking stations should be able to regain lock. We anticipate this to be about the middle of December. Our latest calculation of the ephemeris yields:
Right Ascension = 76.27 degrees, Declination = 25.91 degrees.
Since Pioneer 10 is over 75 AU distant and its telemetry signal is virtually at the limit of overall communication system’s link margin, the spacecraft was chosen as a convenient test vehicle for the new methodology of Chaos theory. has been testing the applicability of new methods in semi-blind signal estimation and noise reduction using Pioneer 10 signals. From the latest progress report by Richard. R. Holland of, there are two main areas of development: Algorithm development and data analysis.
Currently NASA and JPL are working with to resolve issues regarding the data analysis. Keep tuned to this web-site for future progress reports on chaos theory and Pioneer 10.
Larry Lasher, Pioneer Project Manager

SpaceRef staff editor.