10 June 2007: After more than 10 years of research and development, the SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity) mission is adopting a completely new approach in the field of remote sensing by employing an instrument called MIRAS (Microwave Imaging Radiometer using Aperture Synthesis).
By capturing images of microwave radiation emitted from the surface of the Earth at a specific wavelength, this instrument is capable of observing both the moisture in soil and salt in the oceans. MIRAS will be the first-ever 2-D interferometric radiometer in space and will provide much-needed data to learn more about the continual circulation of water between the oceans, the atmosphere and the land – the Earth’s water cycle, one of the most important processes occurring on the planet and a crucial component of the weather and climate.
Making sure the instrument will withstand the rigors of launch and the harsh environment in orbit is an extremely important part of the mission development. Therefore, with launch scheduled for next year, MIRAS had to undergo an extensive three-month testing programme in ESA’s Test Centre.
The engineers and scientists involved in this intensive testing programme are extremely pleased with the results and the MIRAS instrument is now in the process of being packed up for delivery to Thales Alenia Space (formerly Alcatel Alenia Space) in Cannes, where it will be joined with the PROTEUS platform to form the entire SMOS satellite to be launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia next year.