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ZIP

The Zenith Incoherent Profiler is a low cost Incoherent Scatter Radar system that is designed to be a fully remote observational station in a planetary network of ionospheric instruments. A large and mechanically simple zenith directed antenna is combined with an HOM-IOT transmitter that is derived from Digital Television Transmitter technology. All solid state tube modulation, control, and monitoring is used to provide a high level of reliability. Initially we plan to implement a demonstration ZIP design using the Millstone Hill Zenith antenna. After this initial demonstration a fully deployable version will be constructed using a large and low cost antenna design. The ZIP construction and operation costs are projected to be a small fraction of traditional incoherent scatter radar designs. ZIP systems will have excellent performance coupled with fully automated 24/7 operations. Elements which contribute to the low cost of this instrument include a modest average power level (50 kW), high transmitter efficiency (70+%), simple fixed antenna designs, the use of high power coax instead of waveguide, and full automation using Software Radar technology. Additional cost optimization can be obtained by dynamically varying the output power level and duty cycle of the transmitter in response to changing geophysical conditions without loss of efficiency. A mid-class incoherent scatter radar system, such as the Zenith Incoherent Profiler, can provide access to physical parameters that are unavailable using other experimental techniques. An excellent example of this is the electron to ion temperature ratio which can only be routinely determined in the ionosphere using the incoherent scatter technique. Modestly more costly and complicated design variations can also produce measurement of ionospheric electric fields using multiple beams or multistatic passive receiving arrays. A low cost Incoherent Scatter Radar design is useful because it can be widely deployed in numbers appropriate for a large scale Space Weather observational network. ZIP systems can also be constructed and operated by organizations that lack the resources for a full facility class ISR. This is in sharp contrast to current ISR designs which are all unique and expensive instruments. A network of such low cost ISR systems would also be much more powerful collectively than any individual instrument. This coordinated operation is easily enabled through the use of a uniform design based on Software Radar technology. The Zenith Incoherent Profiler will be a key element of a planetary network for monitoring the Earth's Ionosphere.

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