Mission Type: Orbiter
Launch Vehicle: Thor-Delta E (no. 35 / Thor no. 460/DSV-3E)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, USA, launch complex 17A
NASA Center: Ames Research Center
Spacecraft Mass: 62.14 kg
Spacecraft Instruments: 1) single-axis fluxgate magnetometer; 2) Faraday-cup plasma probe; 3) plasma analyzer; 4) cosmic-ray telescope; 5) cosmic-ray-anisotropy detector; 6) radio wave propagation experiment; and 7) celestial mechanics experiment
Spacecraft Power: Solar cells and batteries
Maximum Data Rate: 512 bps
Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, Monographs in Aerospace History No. 24, by Asif A. Siddiqi
National Space Science Data Center, http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/
Pioneer 6 was the first of four NASA spacecraft designed to study interplanetary phenomena in space. The spacecraft successfully provided simultaneous scientific measurements at widely dispersed locations in heliocentric orbit. It returned the first data on the tenuous solar atmosphere and later recorded the passage of Comet Kohoutek's tail in 1974.
Along with Pioneers 7, 8, and 9, the spacecraft formed a ring of solar weather stations spaced along Earth's orbit. Measurements by the four Pioneers were used to predict solar storms for approximately 1,000 primary users, including the Federal Aviation Administration; commercial airlines; power companies; communication companies; military organizations; and entities involved in surveying, navigation, and electronic prospecting.
By December 1990, Pioneer 6 had circled the Sun 29 times (traveling 24.8 billion kilometers) and had been operational for 20 years-a record for a deep-space probe. Its original slated lifetime had been only 6 months.
One hour's worth of scientific data was collected on 29 July and 15 December 1995. The spacecraft's primary transmitter failed sometime after that, but during a track on 11 July 1996, ground controllers switched on the backup transmitter and the downlink signal was re-acquired. The spacecraft and a few of the science instruments were again functioning. Additional data was collected on 6 October 1997, more than 30 years after launch. On 8 December 2000, to commemorate its 35th anniversary of operation, ground controllers established successful contact with the spacecraft for about 2 hours.