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Celestial Mechanics and Radio Science

NSSDC ID: 1973-085A-02
Mission Name: Mariner 10
Principal Investigator: Prof. H. Taylor Howard


This experiment used X- (8400 MHz) and S- (2113 MHz) band, on-board radio systems for whatever scientific purposes could be devised. Two primary approaches were made, one utilizing tracking information, the other taking advantage of radio trajectory variations associated with occultation of the earth-spacecraft signal. Tracking information was analyzed to determine mass and gravitational characteristics (including planetary internal composition and density estimates) of both Venus and Mercury. From anomalous characteristics observed in the X- and S-band signals during spacecraft passage through the planetary atmospheres just prior to, and subsequent to, occultation, temperature and pressure profiles were calculated. These profiles were useful to adjust atmospheric composition models. Signal cutoff provided useful information for determination of planetary radius.

Facts in Brief

Mass: 1.8 kg
Power (avg): 10.6 W

Funding Agency

  • NASA-Office of Space Science (United States)


  • Planetary Science: Atmospheres
  • Planetary Science: Celestial Mechanics

Additional Information

Questions or comments about this experiment can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams.



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. Arvydas J. KlioreTeam MemberNASA Jet Propulsion
Prof. H. Taylor HowardGeneral ContactStanford University 
Mr. Gerald S. LevyTeam MemberNASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 
Dr. Irwin I. ShapiroTeam MemberMassachusetts Institute of
Dr. Gunnar FjeldboTeam MemberNASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 
Dr. John D. AndersonTeam MemberNASA Jet Propulsion

Selected References

Fjeldbo, G., et al., Mariner 10 radio occultation measurements of the ionosphere of Venus, J. Atmos. Sci., 32, No. 6, 1232-1236, June 1975.

Howard, H. T., et al., Mercury: Results on mass, radius, ionosphere, and atmosphere from Mariner 10 dual-frequency radio signals, Science, 185, No. 4146, 179-180, July 1974.

Howard, H. T., et al., Venus: Mass, gravity field, atmosphere, and ionosphere as measured by the Mariner 10 dual-frequency radio system, Science, 183, No. 4131, 1297-1301, Mar. 1974.

Fjeldbo, G., et al., The occultation of Mariner 10 by Mercury, Icarus, 29, 439-444, 1976.

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