10 September 2009
Two months to launch
The moment of truth is fast approaching as the SMOS* team busily checks out the facilities in Arkhangelsk, Russia, where the satellite is set to arrive mid-September.
“SMOS is scheduled to leave the Cannes-Mandelieu space centre on 16 September,” says Yann Kerr, SMOS Principal Investigator at the CESBIO** biosphere research centre. “It will be flown to Arkhangelsk aboard an Antonov aircraft and then transported from there by train and truck to the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.”
Proba-2, the satellite that will be accompanying SMOS, is already in Plesetsk.
The small European satellite designed to demonstrate new space technologies left Belgium on 27 August.
If everything goes to plan, Proba-2 and SMOS should be lofted into orbit on 2 November atop a Russian Rockot launcher.
Space offers us a global picture of our fragile, vulnerable planet. Earth-observation satellites like SMOS, set to launch on 2 November, are there to help us with the changes we must make to preserve it.
The mission control centre at CNES in Toulouse, responsible for operating SMOS in orbit, is set to simulate satellite positioning operations between 13 and 23 September.
“It will be a kind of dress rehearsal,” explains Yann Kerr. “Everything must be executed perfectly, from orbit insertion to power-up of the payload.”
SMOS’s payload is a microwave imaging radiometer with a synthetic-aperture antenna configuration.
This means the instrument will be able to measure soil moisture and ocean salinity - both key climate change variables - from the satellite’s 755-km perch in space.
CNES is playing a major role in the European SMOS mission, with the mission control centre in Toulouse and data processing centres.
* Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity
** Centre d'Etudes Spatiales de la BIOsphère