A new microwave electron cyclotron resonance (ECR) multicusp plasma ion source using two ECR plasma production regions and multicusp plasma confinement has been developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. This source has been operated to produce uniform and dense plasmas over large areas of 300-400 cm 2. The plasma source has been operated with continuous argon gas feed and pulsed microwave power. The discharge initiation phenomena and plasma properties have been investigated and studied as functions of discharge parameters. Together with the discharge characteristics observed, a hypothetical discharge mechanism for this plasma source is reported and discussed. Potential applications, including plasma and ion-beam processing for manufacturing advanced microelectronics and for space electric propulsion, are discussed.