London, November 2 (ANI): An European satellite that will provide major new insights into how water is cycled around the Earth, has been launched into space.
According to a report by BBC News, the SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity) spacecraft will make the first global maps of the amount of moisture held in soils and of the quantity of salts dissolved in the oceans.
The SMOS satellite is part of an armada of European spacecraft being sent into orbit over the next few years to study the planet.he mission will run for three years in the first instance.
"SMOS is a very challenging mission which has required a completely new type of instrument," said Dr Volker Liebig, the director of Earth observation at the European Space Agency (ESA)
The instrument is an interferometric radiometer called Miras. Some eight metres across, it has the look of helicopter rotor blades.
Miras will measure changes in the wetness of the land and in the salinity of seawater by observing variations in the natural microwave emission coming up off the surface of the planet.
It carries 69 antennas positioned on a central structure and along the lengths of its three arms.
The whole system is folded for launch to fit inside the rocket, and its correct unfurling on day two of the mission will be a critical procedure.
"We do it in two steps," said Francois Bermudo, the Smos project manager with the French space agency (CNES).
"The arms are attached by 12 nuts, four on each arm. First, the pyrotechnic sequence will cut nine nuts so that each arm is held by one nut. Then we will fire the final nuts to have a synchronous opening of the arms. It will take about three minutes," he told BBC News.MOS data will result in a better understanding of the hydrological cycle - the description of how water is constantly exchanged between the Earth's land and ocean surfaces and the atmosphere.
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.
Smos shares its ride into space with a small ESA demonstration satellite called Proba-2 (PRoject for OnBoard Autonomy).
The satellite is expected to operate for at least three years. (ANI)