Global soil moisture map (Image MIT/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An article published in the journal “Nature Geoscience” describes an analysis of data collected during the first year of NASA’s SMAP satellite’s mission. The results were surprising, especially because the data about the soil’s upper layer has a kind of memory of weather, more than you might think from theoretical models or from incomplete surveys carried out prior to this mission.

The Sentinel-1B satellite blasting off atop a Soyuz-STA rocket (Photo ESA–Manuel Pedoussaut)

A few hours ago, the Sentinel-1B satellite, part of the Copernicus / GMES, was launched from the Kourou spaceport, in French Guiana, on a Soyuz-STA/Fregat-M rocket. After about 25 minutes, the satellite regularly separated from the rocket’s last stage and started sending signals. Along with it some nanosatellites of the CubeSat type and the Microscope microsatellite of the French space agency CNES were launched.

The Sentinel-3A blasting off atop a Rockot launch vehicle (Photo ESA)

A few hours ago the Sentinel-3A satellite, part of the GMES / Copernicus program, was launched from the Russian Plesetsk Cosmodrome on a Rockot launch vehicle. After about an hour and a half it separated from the rocket’s last stage, called Breeze KM, it started communicating with the control center and to deploy its solar panels. Its final orbit is Sun-synchronous, which means it will pass over a certain area of ​​the Earth at the same local time, with an altitude of about 815 kilometers (about 506 miles).

The Jason-3 satellite right after blasting off atop a Falcon 9 rocket (Photo NASA/Bill Ingalls)

It was morning in California when the Jason-3 satellite was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg U.S. Air Force Base. After nearly an hour it separated from the rocket’s upper stage and started deploying its solar panels. It will operate from a low Earth orbit of polar type, which means that it will pass over the poles, with an altitude between 1,328 and 1,380 kilometers (825 to 860 miles).

A Long March 3B rocket blasting off, officially carrying the TXJSSY-1 satellite (Photo courtesy Xinhua agency. All rights reserved)

Saturday, September 12, China launched a satellite announcing it only later. It’s not the first time that something like that happened because the Chinese provide information on their space missions when their government decides it and typically in limited amount. Officially, the launch involved a test communications satellite called TXJSSY-1 of a new type called Communications Engineering Test Satellite. However, various rumors spread out about the real nature of the launch, partly because of growing tensions in the South China Sea.