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Pioneer 5



Pioneer 5 (1960 Alpha 1) was a spin-stabilized space probe used to investigate interplanetary space between the orbits of earth and Venus. The spacecraft measured magnetic field phenomena, solar flare particles, and ionization in the interplanetary region. The digital data were transmitted at 1, 8, and 64 bps, depending on the distance of the spacecraft from the earth and the size of the receiving antenna. Weight limitations on the solar cells prevented continuous operation of the telemetry transmitters. About four operations of 25-min duration were scheduled per day with occasional increases during times of special interest. A total of 138.9 h of operation was completed, and over 3 million binary bits of data were received. The major portion of the data was received at the Manchester and Hawaii tracking stations because their antennas provided grid reception. Pioneer 5 performed normally until April 30, 1960, after which telemetry transmission became too infrequent for any significant addition to the data. The spacecraft established a communications link with the earth from a record distance of 22.5 million miles on June 26, 1960, which was the last day of transmission.

Alternate Names

  • 1960 Alpha 1
  • 00027
  • Pioneer5

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1960-03-11
Launch Vehicle: Thor-Able
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Mass: 43 kg

Funding Agencies

  • NASA-Office of Space Science Applications (United States)
  • Department of Defense-Department of the Air Force (United States)


  • Planetary Science
  • Space Physics

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Coordinated Request and User Support Office



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Mr. Charles F. HallProject ManagerNASA Ames Research Center

Selected References

  • Fan, C. Y., et al., Preliminary results from the space probe Pioneer 5, J. Geophys. Res., 65, No. 6, 1862-1863, doi:10.1029/JZ065i006p01862, June 1960.
  • NASA cites data gained by Pioneer V, Space Technol., 3, No. 4, 9, Oct. 1960.
  • Clark, E., Pioneer V transmits deep space data, Space Technol., 3, No. 2, 8-10, Apr. 1960.
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