Capability for sea surface salinity observation was an important gap in ocean remote sensing in the last few decades of the 20 th century. New technological developments during the 1990s at the European Space Agency led to the proposal of SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity), an Earth explorer opportunity mission based on the use of a microwave interferometric radiometer, MIRAS (Microwave Imaging Radiometer with Aperture Synthesis). SMOS, the first satellite ever addressing the observation of ocean salinity from space, was successfully launched in November 2009. The determination of salinity from the MIRAS radiometric measurements at 1.4 GHz is a complex procedure that requires high performance from the instrument and accurate modelling of several physical processes that impact on the microwave emission of the ocean s surface. This paper introduces SMOS in the ocean remote sensing context, and summarizes the MIRAS principles of operation and the SMOS salinity retrieval approach. It describes the Spanish SMOS high-level data processing centre (CP34) and the SMOS Barcelona Expert Centre on Radiometric Calibration and Ocean Salinity (SMOS-BEC), and presents a preliminary validation of global sea surface salinity maps operationally produced by CP34.