The EISCAT_3D design study

  The EISCAT_3D Design Study

The Design Study has now ended

The design study ran as a Specific Support Action under the Framework Programme 6 initiative (EU contract no: 011920, project acronym: EISCAT_3D).

The project started 2005-05-01 and ended 2009-04-30.

The total project cost amounted to 2605 k€ (budget 2882 k€) whereof EU paid 1963 k€ (budget 2017 k€) .

The project used 364 staff-months (budget 368 staff-months) from the participants. This corresponds to about 8 person-years per year during the four year project.

The conclusions from the EISCAT_3D Design Study can be found in the Final Design Study Report.

Background, and a large amount of documentation from the different parts of the EISCAT_3D Design Study, can be found using the links below.


Introduction and background

February 12, 2010
The high latitude environment is of increasing importance, not only for purely scientific studies, but because of the direct effects on technological systems and climate which are principally mediated through interactions with solar produced particles and fields and whose effects are overwhelmingly concentrated in the polar and high latitude areas. These effects are of importance not only from a European dimension, but globally, since the European arctic and high arctic areas are the most accessible, and best supported by installed infrastructure and existing communities, of any place on the Earth from which the necessary observations and measurements can be made.

Mankind is entering a period where full knowledge and understanding of the Earth’s environment as part of the linked Sun-Earth system is essential and it is important to exploit existing advantages to provide effective and continuous monitoring of the critical interaction regions. Incoherent scatter radar is the most effective, ground-based technique for studying and monitoring the upper atmosphere and ionosphere.

The radars of the EISCAT Scientific Association have defined the present state of the art within the World’s incoherent scatter community for the last several years. EISCAT has been very successful in exploiting its two radars located on the Scandinavian mainland (one operating at 931 MHz and the second at 231 MHz) and, indeed, this success led directly to the design, construction, and operation of the EISCAT Svalbard Radar nearly 1000 km further north almost ten years ago.

The EISCAT Scientific Association, in co-operation with the University of Tromsø (Norway), Luleå University of Technology (Sweden), the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (UK), and Swedish Institute of Space Physics, therefore started a four-year design exercise, supported by European Union funding under the Sixth Framework initiative, which builds on its past successes and aims to maintain its world leadership role in this field.

The Design Study was divided into 13 Work Packages that provided input into different aspects of how the EISCAT_3D project could be realised.

Here we have collected some of the documents from the process leading to the EISCAT_3D Design Study.


March 23, 2011
Publications describing the main conclusions from the four year EISCAT_3D Design Study.

“EISCAT_3D: A Next-Generation European Radar System for Upper-Atmosphere and Geospace Research” (Gudmund Wannberg et al.) The Radio Science Bulletin 332(75-88) (March 2010)

“EISCAT_3D – European new technology atmospheric and space environment radar arrays” (Esa Turunen and the EISCAT_3D Design Study Team) Proc. ’19th ESA Symposium on European Rocket and Balloon Programmes and Related Research, Bad Reichenhall, Germany, 7–11 June 2009 (ESA SP-671, September 2009)

Doctoral Thesis in Industrial Engineering

September 17, 2009
Gustav Johansson at the Luleå University of Technology successfully defended his Beamforming and Timing Design Issues for a Large Aperture Array Radar Applied to Atmospheric Research doctoral thesis on Tuesday 1 September 2009.

Faculty opponent was and Dr. Jan Bergman from the Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Uppsala and the grading committee consisted of Dr. Craig J. Heinselman, SRI International, Menlo Park, USA; Professor Per-Simon Kildal, Antenna group, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg; and Professor Sheila Kirkwood, Atmospheric Physics Programme, Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Kiruna.

The thesis can be downloaded from

Master of Science work on EISCAT_3D Antenna and Array

March 1, 2009
Toralf Renkwitz has successfully finished his Master of science Work Analysis and Optimisation of Medium Gain X-Yagi Antennas for the EISCAT 3D 237.5MHz Incoherent Scatter Radar Active Array.

It is available for download here.

Background: EISCAT_3D FP6 Design Study

November 24, 2009
The radars of the European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association (EISCAT) are the World’s leading ground based instruments providing high quality radar observations of the auroral and polar ionosphere and atmosphere. Current and future ionospheric and plasma physics research, geophysical environmental monitoring, modelling, and forecasting (e.g. for space weather, ionospheric corrections, and climate change) are driving requirements for both quasi-continuous observations and substantially improved spatial and temporal resolution.

This design study investigated the technical feasibility, costs, and potential European manufacturers of a new next generation VHF incoherent scatter radar with distributed power amplifiers and an upgraded antenna array for both transmission and reception, together with at least two further, remote reception facilities, using phased arrays with multiple distributed receivers. The design study also encompassed essential developments in advanced signal processing, data collection, distribution, and analysis.

The design study was run as a Specific Support Action under the Framework Programme 6 initiative of the European Commission.

The project started 2005-05-01 and ended 2009-04-30.

The project budget volume was 2882 k€ whereof EU funding amounts to 2017 k€. The project drew 368 staff-months from the participants.

Depending on the funding model, the staff was either project employees or assigned to the project by the participating organisation.

Participants of the project were:

EISCAT Scientific Association, Kiruna, Sweden

University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway

University of Luleå, Luleå, Sweden

Science & Technology Facilities Council, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Didcot, United Kingdom

Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Kiruna and Uppsala, Sweden


Findings: EISCAT_3D FP6 Design Study Summary

June 8, 2009
The Final Design Study Report was published 8 June 2009 by the Design Study Project Team. Its findings are summaried in a comprehensive report (link below).

In short, the Design Study recommends a system as follows:

Following extensive consultation with the scientific user community in 2004 and 2005, it was determined that only a multi-static phased array system could reach or approach the performance demanded by present and future users. Accordingly, the target system comprises a central active (transmit-receive) site (the “core”) and four receive-only sites , located on two approximately 250 km long baselines oriented N-S and E-W respectively.

During the four-year study, all mission-critical technical concepts have been modelled, investigated by simulations, in critical cases also by full-scale tests, and found to be realisable. Array sizes, transmitter power levels and receiver noise performance required to reach the desired time and space resolutions have also been established. To reach the desired performance, the target system should have the following technical characteristics:

The core will comprise a 120-m diameter filled circular aperture array with ?16 000 elements, laid out on an equilateral triangular grid, and a number (6…9) of smaller outlier receive-only arrays. The core will provide: a half-power beamwidth of ? 0.75°, a power-aperture product exceeding 100 GW m², grating-lobe free pattern out to 40° zenith angle and graceful degradation in case of single-point equipment failure. Each core array element will be made up from a radiator, a dual 300+300 Watt linear RF power amplifier, a high performance direct-digitising receiver and support electronics. The recommended radiator is a crossed Yagi antenna with a minimum directivity of about 7 dBi.

Four filled 8 000-element receive-only arrays will be installed, two on each baseline at distances of respectively ?110 and ?250 km from the core. Their radiating elements will be 3- or 4-element X Yagis, essentially identical to those used in the core. The Yagis will be directed towards the core field-of-view and elevated to 45°. Outlier arrays for interferometry will also be installed.

Advanced digital beam-forming systems will allow the generation of a large number of simultaneous beams from each array, thus eliminating the time/space ambiguity plaguing all present incoherent scatter systems and making true volumetric imaging of vector quantities possible for the first time.


Documents related to the EISCAT_3D design study can be found in our external library.

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