• Investigation on the Navigation Anomaly of Pioneer 10 and 11 probes
  • Modenini, Dario <1983>


  • ING-IND/05 Impianti e sistemi aerospaziali


  • The present work consists of the investigation of the navigation of Pioneer 10 and 11 probes becoming known as the “Pioneer Anomaly”: the trajectories followed by the spacecrafts did not match the ones retrieved with standard navigation software. Mismatching appeared as a linear drift in the Doppler data received by the spacecrafts, which has been ascribed to a constant sunward acceleration of about 8.5×10-10 m/s2. The study presented hereafter tries to find a convincing explanation to this discrepancy. The research is based on the analysis of Doppler tracking data through the ODP (Orbit Determination Program), developed by NASA/JPL. The method can be summarized as: seek for any kind of physics affecting the dynamics of the spacecraft or the propagation of radiometric data, which may have not been properly taken into account previously, and check whether or not these might rule out the anomaly. A major effort has been put to build a thermal model of the spacecrafts for predicting the force due to anisotropic thermal radiation, since this is a model not natively included in the ODP. Tracking data encompassing more than twenty years of Pioneer 10 interplanetary cruise, plus twelve years of Pioneer 11 have been analyzed in light of the results of the thermal model. Different strategies of orbit determination have been implemented, including single arc, multi arc and stochastic filters, and their performance compared. Orbital solutions have been obtained without the needing of any acceleration other than the thermal recoil one indicating it as the responsible for the observed linear drift in the Doppler residuals. As a further support to this we checked that inclusion of additional constant acceleration as does not improve the quality of orbital solutions. All the tests performed lead to the conclusion that no anomalous acceleration is acting on Pioneers spacecrafts.


  • 2012-04-12


  • Doctoral Thesis
  • PeerReviewed


  • application/pdf



Modenini, Dario (2012) Investigation on the Navigation Anomaly of Pioneer 10 and 11 probes, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Meccanica e scienze avanzate dell'ingegneria: progetto n. 1 "Disegno e metodi dell’ingegneria industriale e scienze aerospaziali" , 24 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/4837.