The European Space Agency’s soil moisture and ocean salinity (SMOS) satellite has reached the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia for launch preparation.

The SMOS is one of ESA’s earth observation satellites, and will provide global maps of high sensitivity and resolution with a large spatial and temporal coverage for soil moisture and ocean salinity.

Improved global data on moisture and salinity will enhance understanding of the water cycle and improve hydrological and meteorological models for climate variation and extreme events forecasting.

In addition, observations over regions of ice and snow will contribute to studies of the cryosphere.

The satellite features a Thales Alenia-built Proteus multimission module, an L-band radiometer-interferometer comprising an antenna with three 4m deployable arms and fitted with 69 passive receivers.

In the next few weeks, the SMOS will be tested and prepared for launch and then encapsulated with the Proba-2 satellite in the Rockot launcher for lift-off on 2 November 2009.