Much of what is known about heavier elements in galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) comes from the predecessor TIGER and SuperTIGER balloon-borne instruments. TIGERISS builds on SuperTIGER with better charge resolution.

Though its single-element GCR abundance measurements will be novel, TIGERISS will rely on
established physics of particle detector signal generation. As nuclei pass through the instrument in space, it will measure their differential (specific) ionization energy loss and velocity, which allows the charge Z of the bare nucleus to be calculated using established formulas. TIGERISS detector technologies — silicon strip detectors and Cherenkov detectors — will be innovatively combined, but are equally well established.