HAARP approaches the study of the ionosphere by following in the footsteps of an ionospheric heater called EISCAT near Tromsø, Norway.
There, scientists pioneered exploration of the ionosphere by perturbing it with radio waves in the 2–10 MHz range, and studying how the ionosphere reacts.
The HAARP project directs a 3.6 MW signal, in the 2.8–10 MHz region of the HF (high-frequency) band, into the ionosphere. Effects of the transmission and any recovery period can be examined using associated instrumentation, including VHF and UHF radars, HF receivers, and optical cameras.
It was designed and built by BAE Advanced Technologies (BAEAT).The most prominent instrument at HAARP is the Ionospheric Research Instrument (IRI), a high-power radio frequency transmitter facility operating in the high frequency (HF) band.The IRI is used to temporarily excite a limited area of the ionosphere.HAARP also enables studies of how the natural ionosphere affects radio signals.The insights gleaned at HAARP will enable scientists to develop methods to mitigate these effects to improve the reliability or performance of communication and navigation systems which would have a wide range of both civilian and military uses, such as an increased accuracy of GPS navigation and advances in underwater and underground research and applications.This profile becomes even more complex near Earth's magnetic poles, where the nearly vertical alignment and intensity of earth's magnetic field can cause physical effects like the aurora.The ionosphere is traditionally very difficult to measure.The project's specifications were developed by the universities, who continued to play a major role in the design of future research efforts.According to HAARP's original management, the project strove for openness, and all activities were logged and publicly available, a practice which continues under the University of Alaska Fairbanks.Balloons cannot reach it because the air is too thin, but satellites cannot orbit there because the air is too thick.Hence, most experiments on the ionosphere give only small pieces of information.