SMOS and Proba-2 launched by Rokot
The second satellite in ESA's Earth Explorer series-the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission-and the second demonstration satellite under ESA's Project for Onboard Autonomy (Proba-2) were launched into orbit last night from northern Russia.
SMOS will play a key role in the monitoring of climate change on a global scale. It is the first ever satellite designed both to map sea surface salinity and to monitor soil moisture on a global scale. It features a unique interferometric radiometer that will enable passive surveying of the water cycle between oceans, the atmosphere and land.
Travelling piggyback on the launch of SMOS, Proba 2 is a follow-on to the highly successful Proba 1 satellite launched in 2001. It will demonstrate 17 advanced satellite technologies -such as miniaturised sensors for ESA's future space probes and a highly sophisticated CCD camera with a wide angle view of about 120º-while carrying a set of four science instruments to observe the Sun and study the plasma environment in orbit.
The satellites were launched atop a Rockot launch vehicle provided by Eurockot GmbH. Liftoff from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia took place at 01:50 UTC (02:50 CET) on Monday 2 November. Some 70 minutes after launch, SMOS successfully separated from the Rockot's Breeze-KM upper stage. Shortly after, the satellite's initial telemetry was acquired by the Hartebeesthoek ground station, near Johannesburg, South Africa. The upper stage then performed additional manoeuvres to arrive at a slightly lower orbit and Proba-2 was released too, some 3 hours into flight.