Discussions of radio science experiments with spacecraft in the solar system require a general knowledge of the sophisticated experimental techniques used by NASA’s Deep Space Network7 (DSN). Specifically, for the purposes of the Pioneer Doppler data analysis one needs a general knowledge of the methods and techniques implemented in the radio science subsystem of the DSN. One also needs an understanding of how spacecraft telemetry is collected at the DSN, distributed and used to assess the state of the spacecraft systems at a particular epoch.
Since its beginnings in 1958, the DSN underwent a number of major upgrades and additions. This was necessitated by the needs of particular space missions8. The history of the Pioneer 10 and 11 projects is inextricably connected to that of DSN. Due to the continuing improvements of the entire network, Pioneer 10 was able to communicate with the project team for over 30 years – far beyond the originally planned operational life of 3 years or less.
In this section, we discuss the history of the DSN, its current status, and describe the DSN antennas and operations in support of deep space missions. We also review the methods and techniques implemented in the radio science subsystem of the DSN that is used to obtain the radio tracking data, from which, after analysis, results are generated.
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