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We have developed a digital signal processor (DSP) system to extend the capabilities of a variety of scientific instruments used to make in situ ionospheric plasma measurements from sounding rockets and spacecraft. The DSP system is extremely flexible due to the use of a field programmable gate array, sigma‐delta analog‐to‐digital converters, and a highly integrated single‐chip DSP. Using virtually identical circuitry, we have operated DSP systems processing data from low‐frequency electric field detectors, Langmuir probes, and several radio‐frequency receivers on several sounding rockets and spacecraft with different digital telemetry interfaces. The DSP system provides three major improvements to our instruments: (1) reduced telemetry bandwidth (data) requirements, (2) improved signal‐to‐noise ratio, and (3) digital antialiasing filtering. We describe our DSP system and show three examples of how we have implemented it with our instruments. Similar systems should be of interest to researchers in many fields of research.