ESA selects lasers for SMOS satelite

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Modulight has successfully supplied fibre pigtailed laser diodes to the European Space Agency (ESA) for the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) satellite to be launched on 2nd of November 2009. These lasers, designed and manufactured in Finland, are an essential part of the optical harness of the MIRAS (Microwave Imaging Radiometer using Aperture Synthesis) instrument in the satellite. Through the use of MIRAS, SMOS will provide global information on surface soil moisture every three days within an accuracy of four per cent at a spatial resolution of 50km - comparable to being able to detect one teaspoonful of water mixed into a handful of soil. In parallel, SMOS will also observe ocean salinity down to 0.1psu (practical salinity unit) for a 30-day average over an area of 200x200km, which is about the same as detecting 0.1g of salt in a litre of water.

The MIRAS Optical Harness (MOHA) was designed and manufactured by RUAG Space. Modulight supplied more than 70 lasers for this instrument, which controls the synchronisation of the distributed microwave antenna elements of the satellite and thereby the whole remote sensing functionality.

It is hoped that the data from SMOS will result in a better understanding of the water cycle and, in particular, the exchange processes between the Earth's surfaces and the atmosphere. This data will help to improve weather and climate models, and also have practical applications in areas such as agriculture and water resource management.