L-band (1-2 GHz) microwave radiometry is a remote sensing technique that can be used to monitor soil moisture, and is deployed in the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) Mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). Performing ground-based radiometer campaigns before launch, during the commissioning phase and during the operative SMOS mission is important for validating the satellite data and for the further improvement of the radiative transfer models used in the soil-moisture retrieval algorithms. To address these needs, three identical L-band radiometer systems were ordered by ESA. They rely on the proven architecture of the ETH L-Band radiometer for soil moisture research (ELBARA) with major improvements in the microwave electronics, the internal calibration sources, the data acquisition, the user interface, and the mechanics. The purpose of this paper is to describe the design of the instruments and the main characteristics that are relevant for the user.
Keywords: Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity Mission (SMOS); microwave; radiometer; remote sensing.