Satellite SMOS (Soil Moisture Ocean Salinity)
Launch: November 2, 2009
SMOS was launched on November 2, 2009 on a Russian rocket launcher from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia. It is the first satellite designed to both map sea surface salinity and monitor soil moisture on a global scale, thus contributing to a better understanding of the Earth's water cycle. As a secondary objective, SMOS will also provide observations over snow and ice-covered regions, contributing to the study of the cryosphere.
Climate change is one of the key challenges of the 21st century, and improving our understanding of it is imperative. Scientists believe that by acquiring more data about soil moisture and ocean salinity--two key variables linked to the Earth's water cycle--they will better understand how a changing climate may be affecting patterns of evaporation over land and ocean.
To gather this essential information, a satellite called SMOS, developed under the European Space Agency's (ESA) Living Planet Programme, was launched on November 2 on a Russian rocket launcher from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia. It is the first satellite designed to both map sea surface salinity and monitor soil moisture on a global scale, thus contributing to a better understanding of the Earth's water cycle. As a secondary objective, SMOS will also provide observations over snow and ice-covered regions, contributing to the study of the cryosphere.
Why does the SMOS mission matter?
SMOS is the next in a series of ESA's Earth Explorers missions, which are designed to observe critical Earth system variables. SMOS is the first satellite dedicated to providing global measurements of soil moisture and ocean salinity. This will help to further advance environmental research and address the challenges of understanding how the Earth system works and how human activity is impacting natural Earth processes.
Canada and SMOS
As a cooperating member of ESA, Canada is an active participant in the SMOS mission. The Canadian Space Agency's (CSA) participation and funding of Earth Observation Space Technology Programs has enabled Canadian companies to actively contribute advanced technology for demonstration on this satellite. The CSA has invested in this mission and provided support to the scientific exploitation of SMOS data through its Government Related Initiative Program (GRIP).
Payload and instrument
The satellite carries a single payload instrument, which uses an innovative technique never employed in space before that is based on interferometric radiometry in the L-band (1.4 GHz). By using highly developed technology from orbit, SMOS will take readings across the whole planet over a period of time - building up 2-D images which will give an overall view of the Earth's water cycle.
SMOS will analyse moisture content in the top few centimetres of soil across the globe. This will show scientists how water moves between the ground and the atmosphere, and what proportion is absorbed by vegetation - helping them to understand how our climate systems work.
By studying the salinity of our oceans, SMOS will provide a reliable picture of how water moves across the planet. Water with a high saline content is denser, meaning that different concentrations control the flow of warm and cold currents - affecting the world's weather systems.
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