Anomalous Dynamics in the Solar System: Investigation of the Pioneer and Earth Flyby Anomalies

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The radio-metric tracking data received from the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft from the distances between 20--70 astronomical units from the Sun has consistently indicated the presence of a small, anomalous, blue-shifted Doppler frequency drift that limited the accuracy of the orbit reconstruction for these vehicles. This drift was interpreted as a sunward acceleration of aP = (8.74 1.33)  1010 m/s2 for each particular spacecraft. This signal has become known as the Pioneer anomaly; the nature of this anomaly is currently being investigated. Recently new Pioneer 10 and 11 radio-metric Doppler and flight telemetry data became available. The newly available Doppler data set is much larger when compared to the data used in previous investigations and is the primary source for new investigation of the anomaly. In addition, the flight telemetry files, original project documentation, and newly developed software tools are now used to reconstruct the engineering history of spacecraft. With the help of this information, a thermal model of the Pioneer vehicles is being developed to study the contribution of thermal recoil force acting on the two spacecraft. The goal of the ongoing efforts is to evaluate the effect of the on-board systems on the spacecrafts' trajectories and possibly identify the nature of this anomaly. The current status of these investigations will be discussed. Besides the Pioneer anomaly, there are other intriguing puzzles in the solar system dynamics still awaiting a proper explanation, notably the, so-called, “fly-by anomaly”, that occurred during Earth gravity assists performed by several interplanetary spacecraft. We will discuss the observed effect, the conditions that led to its observation and will elaborate on the potential causes of this anomaly. This work was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.