The Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft yielded the most precise navigation in deep space to date. However, while at heliocentric distance of $\sim$ 20--70 AU, the accuracies of their orbit reconstructions were limited by a small, anomalous, Doppler frequency drift. This drift can be interpreted as a sunward constant acceleration of $a_P = (8.74 \pm 1.33)\times 10^{-8}$ cm/s$^2$ which is now commonly known as the Pioneer anomaly. Here we discuss the Pioneer anomaly and present the next steps towards understanding of its origin. They are: 1) Analysis of the entire set of existing Pioneer 10 and 11 data, obtained from launch to the last telemetry received from Pioneer 10, on 27 April 2002, when it was at a heliocentric distance of 80 AU. This data could yield critical new information about the anomaly. If the anomaly is confirmed, 2) Development of an instrumental package to be operated on a deep space mission to provide an independent confirmation on the anomaly. If further confirmed, 3) Development of a deep-space experiment to explore the Pioneer anomaly in a dedicated mission with an accuracy for acceleration resolution at the level of $10^{-10}$ cm/s$^2$ in the extremely low frequency range. In Appendices we give a summary of the Pioneer anomaly's characteristics, outline in more detail the steps needed to perform an analysis of the entire Pioneer data set, and also discuss the possibility of extracting some useful information from the Cassini mission cruise data. (Refer to PDF file for exact formulas.)

Date of creation, presentation, or exhibit



"A Route to Understanding of the Pioneer Anomaly," Proceedings of the 22nd Texas Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics. Held at Standford University: Standford, California: 13-17 December 2004. AND also archived at: arXiv:gr-qc/0503021 v1 4 Mar 2005 The work of SGT and JDA was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. MMN acknowledges support by the U.S. Department of Energy.Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in February 2014.

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Department, Program, or Center

School of Physics and Astronomy (COS)


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