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JPL radio science researchers participate in many NASA deep space missions. They contribute to developing engineering requirements consistent with the scientific objectives for each spacecraft and ground elements of radio science instruments; participate in instrument design and development; acquire science data; and participate in analysis and interpretation.
Radio links between spacecraft and Earth are utilized to examine changes in the characteristics of electromagnetic waves such as the phase/frequency, amplitude, radio spectrum, or polarization to investigate many aspects of planetary science, space physics and fundamental physics. Radio Science investigations include:
A profile of the rings of Saturn from radio occultations at three wavelengths (three radios on-board the Cassini spacecraft at different frequencies) S-band (red), X-band (green) and Ka-band (blue). The signal extinction is shown from which the optical thickness and particle size distribution are inferred. The profile is superimposed on an image of the rings generated from radio occultation data (credit: E. A. Marouf, SJSU).
Recent Opportunities and Discoveries
A gravity map of Mars generated from radio tracking techniques shows variations resulting from surface and subsurface density variations (credit A.S. Konopliv, JPL).
Since 1995, radio science has had a significant role in subsequent missions and is credited with the following additional accomplishments:
First detection of Martian core and bulk seasonal CO2 deposition at poles (Mars Pathfinder)