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The factors influencing the power-handling capability of antennas at high altitude are considered in this paper. The physical mechanism involved, including the roles of attachment, free diffusion, ambipolar diffusion, and nonuniform field distribution in the breakdown process, is qualitatively described. These factors are illustrated by breakdown curves for various antenna configurations under both CW and pulse conditions. Normalized data-useful for estimating breakdown fields when the conditions for scaling are fulfilled-are presented. The effect of missile environment on breakdown characteristics is discussed, and an experiment that involves artificially introducing ionization near the surface of the antenna is described. Methods are then considered for increasing the power-handling capability, and typical results are given showing the increase in power that can be achieved.