Worlds of David Darling
Encyclopedia of Science
Home > Encyclopedia of Science

Pioneer 7

Pioneer 6-9
Pioneer 6, 7, 8, and 9
The second of four identical solar orbiting, spin-stabilized spacecraft – Pioneer 6, 7, 8, and 9 – in the Pioneer series of deep space probes. Pioneer 7, launched on Aug. 17, 1966, was last tracked successfully on Mar. 31, 1995. At that time, the spacecraft and one of its science instruments were still functioning.

Pioneer 7''s main body is an aluminum cylinder 94 cm (37 in.) in diameter and 89 cm (35 in.) long. There are three magnetometer booms, each 208 cm (82 in.) long. The antenna mast (pointing down in the picture) is 132 cm (52 in.) long. The mass is approximately 63 kg (138 pounds). 79W of power was generated from the solar panels. The spacecraft is spin-stabilized at approximately 60 rpm, with the spin axis perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic.

Pioneers 6-9 demonstrated the practicality of spinning a spacecraft to stabilize it and to simplify control of its orientation. Measurements made by these spacecraft greatly increased our knowledge of the interplanetary environment and the effects of solar activity on Earth. New information was gathered about the solar wind, solar cosmic rays, the structure of the Sun's plasma and magnetic fields, the physics of particles in space, and the nature of storms on the Sun which produce solar flares. This series of spacecraft also discovered the Earth's magnetotail (magnetic field tail away from the Sun).

launch date Aug. 17, 1966
launch vehicle Delta E1
launch site Cape Canaveral
orbit solar; periapsis 1.009 AU;
apoapsis 1.125 AU;
period 402.9 d;
inclination 0.098°
eccentricity 0.054
other designations Pioneer-B

Related category


Source: NASA