It was operated by the UCLA plasma physics laboratory from 1986 through 2007. A unique capability at that time, it could radiate 70 MW ERP at either 2.85 MHz or 4.53 MHz. These frequencies corresponded to free electron precession. Sending a pulse of RF upward could excite the electrons in the ionosphere. Somewhat like waves on the ocean, the character of the ionosphere could be inferred from the backscatter signal. Other experiments attempted to combine RF and visible excitation where the latter probed metal ions such as sodium.
The HIPAS facility also used a LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging) instrument. Other projects included:
- A plasma torch, used for experiments in hazardous waste disposal
- A 2.8 meter liquid mirror telescope, which uses a spinning bowl of mercury to form the mirror, used for laser experiments.
- An array of antennae which are used for exciting the ionosphere.
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