The multifrequency satellite radio beacon enables the measurement of the columnar electron content of the ionosphere and plasmasphere along the ray path and its spatial and temporal structure. Measurements include modulation phase, Faraday rotation, and amplitude. The characteristics of the beacon transmitter and its design are presented together with the design of the Boulder receiver and antennas and the calibration procedures. A shape factor F is defined which depends on the electron density and geomagnetic field distributions. It is found that F varies by about 30% from day to night. It is shown that the ratio of the plasmaspheric content to total content varies from about 0.08 during the day to about 0.35 at night. Other examples which are presented to illustrate the uses of the radio beacon include sunrise effects, solar flare enhancements of total content, and the ionospheric storms of early July 1974.