The European Space Agency’s (ESA) soil moisture and ocean salinity (SMOS) mission satellite along with Proba-2 have successfully been placed into orbit by the Russian Rockot launch vehicle.

The SMOS is ESA’s second Earth explorer in orbit after the gravity field and steady-state ocean circulation explorer (GOCE) satellite launched in March 2009.

The water mission satellite, SMOS, will provide data to help produce global maps of soil moisture at least every three days and global maps of sea-surface salinity averaged over 30 days to improve weather and climate models.

Proba-2 is the second in ESA’s project for onboard autonomy series, which carries about 17 technology developments and four scientific experiments that focus on solar and space weather.

The SMOS separated from Rockot’s upper stage 70 minutes after launch and later the satellite’s initial telemetry was acquired by the Hartebeesthoek ground station in South Africa.

The upper stage then manoeuvred to a lower orbit to release Proba-2 into orbit three hours into the flight.

Presently, both satellites are circling the Earth on their orbits at an altitude of 760km for SMOS and 725km for Proba-2, and early in-orbit check-out operations have begun before commissioning for operations.

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Proba-2 will be operational in two months, while the more complex SMOS will enter its fully operational mode in six months.