Introduction to the EISCAT_3D Preparatory Phase

EISCAT_3D will be Europe's next-generation radar for the study of the high-latitude atmosphere and geospace, located in northern Scandinavia. EISCAT_3D's capabilities go well beyond anything currently available to the international research community. The facility will consist of several very large phased-array antenna transmitters/receivers and multiple receiver sites, distributed over at least three countries and comprising up to 100,000 individual antenna elements. This new type of volumetric imaging radar represents a significant enhancement to the European Research area. EISCAT_3D will be capable of making measurements from the middle atmosphere to the magnetosphere and beyond, contributing to the basic environmental and applied science that underpins the use of space by contemporary society.

The new infrastructure is designed to provide long-term continuous data for the Earth system science community, measuring the effects of man-made change and natural variability on the middle and upper atmosphere. Securing an understanding of these processes and their potential contribution to global change is a key objective for international science in the 21st century. EISCAT_3D will enhance our knowledge of planetary atmospheres by revealing the interactions between geospace and the atmosphere, through its novel measurement capabilities and location at high latitudes in the auroral zone and at the edge of the polar vortex. It offers a unique research opportunity to study solar system influences, such as solar wind, meteors, dust, energetic particles and cosmic rays, through collaborations with other research infrastructures existing in Northern Fenno-Scandinavia.

The EISCAT_3D Preparatory Phase actions will help position EISCAT Scientific Association to begin implementing the new infrastructure in 2014. In addition, they will provide a framework enabling various kinds of national funding contributions to be integrated into the Preparatory Phase, some of which have already been approved, some of which are still under review, and others which will be the subject of future funding applications. In order to prepare for the new infrastructure much logistical work needs to be done to confirm site selection, involving negotiations with landowners and local communities and the securing of land rights and permissions to build. Minimization of radio interference at each site, as well as access to the required infrastructure and services, will be key issues. The process of securing frequency allocations from the relevant national telecommunication authorities was begun during the FP6 Design Study, but needs to be completed so that frequency allocations are assured to available during the lifetime of the facility.

The scientific requirements for the new infrastructure have a major influence on the system design, and the science plan will need to be continuously updated in response to new user requirements. In particular, the project sets a high priority on expanding the user base into the space weather and middle atmosphere communities which have not been strong users of EISCAT in the past. As well as publicising the project to other scientists, we need to conduct high-quality outreach and to produce promotional materials which address future partners, stakeholders and the general public. There is also the critical issue of assembling the funding consortium for the Implementation Phase, consolidating the cost model, securing commitments of funds and examining what revisions, if any, might be needed to the existing structure of EISCAT in order to allow the new infrastructure to be constructed. A key aim of the Preparatory Phase is to extend the membership of EISCAT through the inclusion of additional member countries, an activity which will require considerable preparation and discussion with the new partners. An important initial task for the Preparatory Phase is to produce a system specification that fully captures the results of the FP6 Design Study and defines target parameters for those remaining parts of the system where the design still needs to be finalised.

While the FP6 Design Study successfully tied down many of the requirements for the hardware and software of EISCAT_3D there are still some areas where work remains to be done. These are the final specification of the digital signal processing system, the finalisation of the antenna design and the specification of mass-producible transmitter modules. Other tasks are to identify the optimum number and placement of the EISCAT_3D antennas for imaging applications, and identifying the required software for signal processing of the new radar experiments to be implemented on the new radar and developing methods for their analysis.

EISCAT_3D has been designed as a largely automated system capable of long-period unattended operation. The envisaged system will be largely self-controlled, using intelligent software to run multiple simultaneous experiments and adapting its experimental mode in response to changing conditions. The Preparatory Phase specifies the control system required for a radar of this complexity. The manner in which the data handling system should be implemented within the existing Scandinavian e-infrastructure will also be determined and this necessitates a close collaboration with other European programmes in networking, grid processing and high-performance computing. There is also a need to engage with potential manufacturers to finalise the design of those system components which need to be massproduced, in order to demonstrate that they can be produced in the required numbers at the required levels of cost and reliability.