The Remote Atmospheric and Ionospheric Detection System (RAIDS) was conceived in 1983 at a time when rather limited datasets were available to study the thermosphere-ionosphere system globally. In particular, ultraviolet remote sensing of this region of the atmosphere had been performed using a number of advanced sounding rockets, various satellite observations limited in global, temporal, or spectral coverage, and several lunar camera images. The RAIDS experiment was developed to perform the first state-of-the-art, comprehensive, global satellite survey of the upper atmosphere using hyperspectral remote sensing of airglow. RAIDS was also to have demonstrated advanced operational global remote sensing methods.

RAIDS was built jointly by the Naval Research Laboratory and The Aerospace Corporation, extensively tested and calibrated, and then integrated onto the NOAA-J Advanced TIROS-N satellite in 1992. When NOAA-I was launched in August 1993 and experienced a power system anomaly two weeks into its mission, the NOAA-J satellite was reconfigured, and RAIDS was removed in 1994. The RAIDS hardware was placed in clean storage at NRL. Eleven domestic and foreign launch opportunities were pursued over the course of thirteen years, each ultimately frustrated by spacecraft accommodation of the large RAIDS sensor suite, programmatic issues, or simple bad luck.

In October 2006 a new flight opportunity aboard the International Space Station (ISS) was identified, and in March 2007 RAIDS was manifested to fly with an NRL companion experiment named the Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO). Both experiments operate inside the HICO-RAIDS Experiment Payload (HREP), which is a structure about the size of a refrigerator that provides power and communications between the experiments and the space station. HREP occupies a NASA slot on the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module—Exposed Facility (JEM-EF) which was installed and commissioned on the ISS in July 2009. The payload launched from Tanegashima, Japan September 10, 2009 aboard the demonstration flight of the new H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV) unmanned ISS resupply system. As the first US payload aboard the JEM-EF, the HREP program serves as pathfinder for future US experiments slated for other NASA slots on the exposed facility. Integration services and one year of mission operations are provided to HREP by the Department of Defense Space Test Program, and the nominal one-year mission may be optionally extended for up to two additional years before removal from Kibo and disposal by reentry.