Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity

Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity

Artist's view of SMOS
Mission type Earth observation
Operator ESA
COSPAR ID 2009-059A
SATCAT № 36036
Website .html/LPsmos/
Mission duration 3 (planned)
4 years as October 2013
Spacecraft properties
Bus Proteus
Manufacturer Thales Alenia Space
Launch mass 658 kilograms (1,451 lb)
Dry mass 630 kilograms (1,390 lb)
Dimensions 2.4 by 2.3 metres (7.9 ft × 7.5 ft) (diameter)
Power up to 1065 watts
Start of mission
Launch date 2 November 2009, 14:21:00 (2009-11-02T14:21Z) UTC[1]
Rocket Rokot/Briz-KM
Launch site Plesetsk 133/3
Contractor Eurockot
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Sun-synchronous
Perigee 765 kilometres (475 mi)[2]
Apogee 766 kilometres (476 mi)[2]
Inclination 98.44 degrees[2]
Period 100.02 minutes[2]
Repeat interval 23 days
Epoch 25 January 2015, 00:45:13 UTC[2]
Band S Band (TT&C support)
X Band (science data acquisition)
Bandwidth up to 722kbit/s download (S Band)
up to 18.4Mbit/s download (X Band)
up to 4kbit /s upload (S Band)
MIRAS: Microwave Imaging Radiometer using Aperture Synthesis

Living Planet Programme

Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity, or SMOS, is a [6]


  • History 1
  • Launcher 2
  • Science 3
    • Instrumentation 3.1
    • Operations and ground segment 3.2
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The project was proposed in November 1998; in 2004 the project passed ESA-phase "C/D" and,[7] after several delays, it was launched on 2 November 2009 from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on a Rockot rocket.[8] The first data from the MIRAS (Microwave Imaging Radiometer using Aperture Synthesis) instrument was received on 20 November 2009.[9] The SMOS programme cost is about €315 million ($465 million; £280 million). It is led by ESA but with significant input from French and Spanish interests.[8]

The satellite is part of ESA's Earth Explorer programme – eight spacecraft that will do innovative science in obtaining data on issues of pressing environmental concern. The first is already in orbit – a mission called GOCE, which is mapping variations in the pull of gravity across the Earth's surface. SMOS is the second Explorer to launch; and a third spacecraft, known as CryoSat-2 (the first CryoSat failed on launch), was launched on 8 April 2010. CryoSat will assess the state of the world's ice cover.


The satellite was launched on 2 November 2009 (04:50 (01:50 GMT)) to a nearly circular orbit of 763 km by a “Rockot”, a modified Russian Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) SS-19 launched from a decommissioned SS-19 launcher from Northern Russia's Plesetsk Cosmodrome.[4][10] The SMOS satellite was launched together with the Proba-2, a technology demonstration satellite.[11][12]


The goal of the SMOS mission is to monitor surface soil moisture with an accuracy of 4% (at 35–50 km spatial resolution).[7] This aspect is managed by the HYDROS project. Project Aquarius will attempt to monitor sea surface salinity with an accuracy of 0.1 psu (10–30 day average and a spatial resolution of 200 km x 200 km).[7][13]

Global salinity map (Aug.–Sept. 2010 & 2011) produced by the ESA's Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity satellite. Released 2012.
The first global map of oceanic surface salinity, produced by the SMOS satellite. The salinity varies from 32 (deep purple) to 38 (bright red).

Soil moisture is an important aspect of climate, and therefore forecasting. Plants transpire water from depths lower than 1 meter in many places and satellites like SMOS can only provide moisture content down to a few centimeters, but using repeated measurements in a day, the satellite can extrapolate soil moisture.[4][5] The SMOS team of ESA hope to work with farmers around the world, including the United States Department of Agriculture to use as ground-based calibration for models determining soil moisture, as it may help to better understand crop yields over wide regions.[14]

Ocean salinity is crucial to the understanding of the role of the ocean in climate through the global water cycle.[15] Salinity in combination with temperature determine ocean circulation by defining its density and hence thermohaline circulation.[16] Additionally, ocean salinity is one of the variables that regulate CO2 uptake and release and therefore control the oceanic carbon cycle.[17]

Information from SMOS is expected to help improve short and medium-term weather forecasts, and also have practical applications in areas such as agriculture and water resource management. In addition, climate models should benefit from having a more precise picture of the scale and speed of movement of water in the different components of the hydrological cycle.[8]


The SMOS satellite carries a new type of instrument called [6][8][13]

Operations and ground segment

The CNES Satellite Operations Ground Segment will operate the spacecraft with telecommunications from ESA's S-band facility located in Kiruna, Sweden. The Data Processing Ground Segment (CDTI, Villafranca, Spain) will process SMOS data through the X-band. Higher level processing of information will be done by scientists globally.[4]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e
  3. ^ ESA's water mission SMOS European Space Agency
  4. ^ a b c d SMOS Project Team, The Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) Mission European Space Agency
  5. ^ a b SMOS Special Issue of ESA Bulletin ESA Bulletin Special Issue 137, February 2009
  6. ^ a b SMOS: The Challenging Sea Surface Salinity Measurement from Space, J. Font, A. Camps, A. Borges, M. Martin-Neira, J. Boutin, N. Reul, Y. Kerr, A. Hahne and S. Mecklenburg, Proceedings of the IEEE, vol. 98, no. 5, May 2010, pp. 649-665
  7. ^ a b c The Living Planet Program Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (MIRAS on RAMSES) Mission SMOS at Centre d'Etudes Spatailes de la BIOsphere (CESBIO)
  8. ^ a b c d
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Successful launch qualification test for PROBA2
  12. ^ ESA's SMOS Mission to be launched in July 2009 from Plesetsk The Rockot Missions. Eurolaunch Launch Service Provider
  13. ^ a b Mecklenburg S, Kerr Y, Font J and Hahne A. The Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) Mission - An overview. Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 10, 2008,
  14. ^ How Dry We Are: European Space Agency To Test Earth's Soil Moisture Via Satellite-Science News, Science Daily
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^

External links

  • ESA – SMOS home page
  • SMOS CESBIO page
  • SMOS on eoPortal
  • SMOS Project Germany
  • SMOS Processor Prototype Page
  • SMOS IFREMER Expert Centre
  • SMOS Barcelona Expert Centre