The SuperDARN (Super Dual Auroral Radar Network) program is an international consortium of HF coherent radars providing continuous observations of ionospheric plasma convection in high latitude regions: auroral zones and polar cap of both hemispheres. France through the LPC2E (2000-2012), then the IRAP (2012-...) is in charge of the Kerguelen radar, located at the Port-aux-Français base. France is a member of the SuperDARN consortium, allowing it access to data from all the radars in the chain (35). France should also be involved in the operational monitoring and operation of a new mid-latitude SuperDARN radar that should be installed by the British teams at the Atmospheric Research Centre (CRA) in Lannemezan, if frequency authorisations are obtained (during 2018).
The international SuperDARN program provides access to vector mapping of the ionospheric plasma velocity field in the auroral and polar regions of the northern and southern hemispheres. The global coverage of the network and the continuous operation of the radars make SuperDARN a tool of choice for characterizing the global state of the magnetosphere in near-real time. The interest of this magnetospheric monitoring is critical in the context of Space Meteorology in particular to understand and predict the possible effect of solar disturbances on the terrestrial environment.

For this purpose, the entire network is essential and the advantage of the Kerguelen radar is in particular to probe the auroral ionosphere of the Southern Hemisphere, which has not been studied by other instruments until now, due to the difficulty of accessing and installing instruments in these regions (high southern latitudes). This prime position in the network makes Kerguelen's radar so relevant and original. It ensures the global monitoring of the southern auroral regions with the other radars in the network. In addition, combined with the English Hankasalmi radar in Finland located on the same field lines but on the northern side, the Kerguelen radar makes it possible to study the differences in dynamic behaviour between the two hemispheres. However, in recent years, the hypothesis of interhemispheric symmetry has been largely undermined and therefore monitoring the evolution of auroral dynamics in the Southern Hemisphere is critical to better characterize the entire terrestrial environment. Finally, the SuperDARN network is a valuable partner for coordinated measurements between ground instruments (SuperDARN-Eiscat-ESR coordination) and on-board means on terrestrial satellites (Field, Demeter, Cluster-II, Double Star, Themis, RBSP, SWARM and MMS). Finally, a strong involvement is emerging in Space Meteorology for which SuperDARN combined with ionospheric models also present at IRAP make it possible to consider reconstructing the ionosphere in real time and simulating the propagation of HF waves in the environment, particularly during solar flares and coronal mass ejections (thesis E. Foucault, DGA/Thalès). These aspects are of particular interest to civil, military and private operators (civil aviation, DGA, Thales).
France was originally responsible for two SuperDARN radars: Stokkseyri in Iceland and Port-aux-Français in the Kerguelen Islands. The Stokkseyri radar, built and managed by France since 1994, was handed over to a British team on 1 May 2013. The Kerguelen radar was built in 1999-2000 through a Franco-Italian collaboration (LPCE, CETP, IFSI). It extends the southern hemisphere system eastward. It is paired with a Japanese radar located at the Syowa Antarctic base. Since the end of 2009, the Kerguelen radar has been under French responsibility only. The scientific and technical exploitation was ensured by the LPC2E until the end of 2012, then by the IRAP following the arrival of Aurélie Marchaudon (PI of the radar). The continuous operation of the radar is monitored by a Civil Service Volunteer (VSC) from Kerguelen employed by the Polar Institute (IPEV). This volunteer is on site for one year. Radar monitoring consists of checking daily that the radar is working properly; visiting the radar site weekly to check the visual condition of the radar electronics and antennas; installing the radar schedule each month; and performing quarterly radar maintenance (December, March, June and September).

Reasearch Group : PEPS

  • Scientific Responsible : A. Marchaudon
  • Technical Manager : L. Noguès

Technical Involvement

IRAP's contribution to the SuperDARN network through the continued operation of the Kerguelen radar since November 2012 (date of transfer of A. Marchaudon):

  • regular monitoring of the electrical, electronic and computer operation of the Kerguelen radar
  • repatriation, processing and return of radar data to Virginia Tech and BAS (American and British teams)
  • regular maintenance of the radar on site: approximately every 4-5 years

To reduce the risk of failure, the Kerguelen radar must undergo extensive technical maintenance about every 4-5 years. The last maintenance took place in the southern summer of 2013-2014 and allowed the transfer of skills between the former technical manager of the LPC2E (S. Chevrier) and the new IRAP (L. Noguès). This maintenance made it possible to upgrade the critical radar element transmitters and repair the electrical connections of a faulty antenna (see photo above for antenna descent). The next maintenance is scheduled for the austral summer of 2018-2019 (financing obtained on the INSU side and downstream for the logistics organization obtained on the IPEV side).

Objectives and Planning

Continuous: regular monitoring (computer, electronics) of the radar by Aurélie Marchaudon (scientific responsible), Loïc Noguès (technical manager) and by the VSC operator IPEV assigned to 10% of its time on the SuperDARN programme in Kerguelen.
The mission initially scheduled for November-December 2018 has been postponed by one year for a slightly longer period.
January 2019- May 2018: preparation of the maintenance of the Kerguelen radar (precise planning, purchase, preparation and packaging for sending the equipment)
Southern summer 2019/2020 (Nov. 2019-Feb. 2020): complete mechanical maintenance of the antennas and replacement of all HF radar cables. Replacement of the radar control system (Receiver, frequency synthesizer, computers). Revision of the rest of the electronics (transmitters).
June 2023-Nov.2024: preparation of the maintenance of the Kerguelen radar (request for INSU financial support and IPEV logistics, precise planning, purchase, preparation and packaging for sending the material)
Southern summer 2024/2025 (Nov. 2024-Feb. 2025): complete mechanical maintenance of the antennas. Revision of electronics and informatics (if financing, replacement of the phase shift and emitter matrix).

Further Resources :

Afficher le pied de page