Satellite Wars

By Cindy Waxer October 07, 2010

The European Space Agency’s painstaking efforts to reduce interference are finally paying off.

Despite impressive preliminary results, the ESA’s Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity “SMOS” mission, which gauges the impact of climate change, has long been plagued with interference from radar, TV and radio transmissions in what should be a protected band ever.

So the ESA launched a behind-the-scenes campaign to shut down illicit radio and TV transmissions interfering with the major climate satellite. According to a statement from the organization, “At times, this interference was effectively blinding the instrument, rendering the data over certain areas unusable.”

SMOS, also known as ESA's water mission, carries a passive radiometer that operates at 1400–1427 MHz in an electromagnetic spectrum to capture snapshots of ‘brightness temperature.’ These snapshots correspond to microwave radiation being emitted from Earth's surface and help paint a picture as to the amount of moisture in the Earth’s soil and salinity in the ocean. Armed with this information, climatologists can better understand the Earth's water cycle.

Who are the culprits behind this interference? The ESA is pointing the finger at TV transmitters, radio links and networks such as security systems. Also, terrestrial radars are being blamed for causing interference.

In turn, the ESA’s counterattack involved identifying where the interference is coming from and then contacting National Spectrum Management Authorities to request that they take steps to resolve the issue. Personnel were then are sent into the field with sensors to identify the precise source of the signals.

States the ESA: “In some cases, it's simply a matter of retuning the device to prevent the signal from leaking into the protected band or, more seriously, if the device is operating illegally the authorities have been shutting them down.”

If only we could put an end to cell phone interference that swiftly. 

Edited by Stefanie Mosca

TechZone360 Contributing Editor

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