Europe launches two satellites: star bright, star light

THE EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY (ESA) has added two satellites to the collection of orbiting space debris, one to help monitor climate change and another to test a range of the latest technologies.

The SMOS and Proba-2 satellites were launched early this morning from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia atop a Rockot launch vehicle.

Some 70 minutes after launch, The 658kg SMOS successfully separated from the Rockot’s Breeze-KM upper stage to take up a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of around 760km. SMOS boasts a Microwave Imaging Radiometer using Aperture Synthesis that will help it map sea surface salinity as well as monitor soil moisture on a global scale through the passive surveying of the water cycle between the oceans, atmosphere and land.

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