After liftoff

Around 70 minutes after liftoff SMOS will be released by the launch vehicle’s upper stage and placed into its final orbit, where it will begin its automatic sequence.

The first ‘Acquisition of Signal’ will be received at the Hartebeesthoek ground station in South Africa roughly two minutes after orbit injection. The two solar wings will be deployed individually starting about 20 seconds later.

Over the next two hours, several ground stations around the world will pick up the satellite’s signal. The overall status and behaviour of the satellite will then be checked.

Nearly 12 hours after the electrical and thermal checks are performed, the payload module will be partially switched on. The following day (3 November) the three Y-shaped arms of the MIRAS instrument will be deployed.

MIRAS antenna deployment

The deployment of the arms marks the beginning of SMOS’s six-month-long commissioning phase. During this time, the satellite and the instrument will be calibrated and tested extensively.

Once completed, the SMOS mission will begin its three-year operational phase to provide soil moisture and ocean salinity data to the European science community. The nominal lifetime of the satellite can be extended by another two years, depending on its overall health and performance.

During operations, the satellite will be monitored, operated and controlled by the CNES (French space agency) Satellite Operations Ground Segment in Toulouse, France.

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