A multifrequency (ten spectral lines between VHF and S band) coherent radio beacon is presently transmitting continuously from a 1000-km, high-inclination orbit for the purpose of characterizing the transionospheric communication channel. Its high phase-reference frequency (2891 MHz) permits direct observation of complex-signal scintillation, and its very stable, sun-synchronous orbit allows repeated pre-midnight observations at low latitudes and near-midnight observations at auroral latitudes. We present here early results of the observations; salient points include the following. First, most of the data are consistent with phase-screen modeling of the production of ionospheric scintillation, including an ƒ−2 frequency dependence for phase variance. Second, propagation theories invoking weak, single scatter seldom are adequate, because even moderate intensity scintillation usually is accompanied by phase fluctuations comparable to or greater than a radian. Third, under conditions producing GHz scintillation (near the geomagnetic equator), lower frequencies show marked diffraction effects, including breakdown of the simple ƒ−2 behavior of phase variance and loss of signal coherenceacross a band as narrow as 11.5 MHz at UHF.
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