SMOS water mission on track for launch

Feb 12, 2009

Following word from Eurockot that launch of the Earth Explorer SMOS satellite can take place between July and October this year, ESA, CNES and the prime contractor Thales Alenia Space are now making detailed preparations for the last crucial steps before ESA's water mission is placed in orbit.

The Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) satellite has been in storage at Thales Alenia Space's facilities in Cannes, France since May last year awaiting for a third stage of the Rockot launcher to be assigned to the mission and a slot given for launch from the Russian Plesetsk Cosmodrome 800 km north of Moscow. All being well, SMOS will be the second of ESA's Earth Explorer missions to launch after the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE), which is planned for launch on 16 March 2009.

Following news from Eurockot Launch Services that launch will be this summer, a team of SMOS managers and engineers from ESA, CNES and Thales Alenia Space has just returned from Moscow after meeting with their Russian counterparts to discuss aspects of the launch.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
The SMOS mission is a direct response to the current lack of frequent global observations of soil moisture and ocean salinity. These data are needed to further our knowledge of the water cycle, and to contribute to better weather and extreme-event forecasting and seasonal-climate forecasting. Credits: ESA - AOES Medialab

Now on track for launch, the SMOS team is preparing for the final milestone prior to the satellite being shipped to Plesetsk - the Flight Acceptance Review. The review will take place in May and involves the design, analysis, manufacture and testing being presented to external reviewers, which ensures that nothing critical has been overlooked. The expected outcome is 'consent to ship' - giving the green light to pack up the SMOS satellite and transport it to Russia for launch in the summer.

SMOS is the first mission dedicated to measuring both the moisture in soil and salt in the surface waters of the oceans. Mapping soil moisture and ocean salinity, ESA's water mission will further our understanding of the water cycle - key to advancing research into global and regional climate change as well as weather and extreme-event forecasting.

Also demonstrating technical innovation, SMOS will carry a completely new type of instrument in space - a microwave imaging radiometer that operates between 1400 - 1427 MHz (L-band). The Microwave Imaging Radiometer using Aperture Synthesis (MIRAS) instrument comprises a central structure and three arms that are deployed shortly after launch. There are 69 antenna-receivers distributed equally over the three arms and central hub which work by measuring microwave radiation emitted from the surface of the Earth. Developed by EADS-CASA in Spain, the MIRAS instrument takes advantage of the fact that moisture in the soil and salt in seawater affect the amount of radiation emitted.

The MIRAS instrument is carried on a standard spacecraft platform called Proteus developed by the French space agency CNES.

Source: European Space Agency

Explore further: Mysteries of space dust revealed

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How Titan's haze help us understand life's origins

Aug 25, 2014

Where did life on Earth come from? There are several theories as to what might have happened. Maybe comets came bearing organic material, or life was transported from another planet such as Mars, or something ...

Meet the "swarmies"- robotics' answer to bugs

Aug 22, 2014

(Phys.org) —A small band of NASA engineers and interns is about to begin testing a group of robots and related software that will show whether it's possible for autonomous machines to scurry about an alien ...

New satellite data will help farmers facing drought

Aug 19, 2014

(Phys.org) —About 60 percent of California is experiencing "exceptional drought," the U.S. Drought Monitor's most dire classification. The agency issued the same warning to Texas and the southeastern United ...

Recommended for you

Mysteries of space dust revealed

18 hours ago

The first analysis of space dust collected by a special collector onboard NASA's Stardust mission and sent back to Earth for study in 2006 suggests the tiny specks open a door to studying the origins of the ...

A guide to the 2014 Neptune opposition season

23 hours ago

Never seen Neptune? Now is a good time to try, as the outermost ice giant world reaches opposition this weekend at 14:00 Universal Time (UT) or 10:00 AM EDT on Friday, August 29th. This means that the distant ...

Informing NASA's Asteroid Initiative: A citizen forum

Aug 28, 2014

In its history, the Earth has been repeatedly struck by asteroids, large chunks of rock from space that can cause considerable damage in a collision. Can we—or should we—try to protect Earth from potentially ...

Image: Rosetta's comet looms

Aug 28, 2014

Wow! Rosetta is getting ever-closer to its target comet by the day. This navigation camera shot from Aug. 23 shows that the spacecraft is so close to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that it's difficult to ...

User comments : 0