Lack of frequent and global observations from space is currently a limiting factor in many Earth Observation (EO) missions. Two potential techniques that have been proposed nowadays are: (1) the use of satellite constellations, and (2) the use of Global Navigation Satellite Signals (GNSS) as signals of opportunity (no transmitter required). Reflectometry using GNSS opportunity signals (GNSS-R) was originally proposed in 1993 by Martin-Neira (ESA-ESTEC) for altimetry applications, but later its use for wind speed determination has been proposed, and more recently to perform the sea state correction required in sea surface salinity retrievals by means of L-band microwave radiometry (TB
). At present, two EO space-borne missions are currently planned to be launched in the near future: (1) ESA’s SMOS mission, using a Y-shaped synthetic aperture radiometer, launch date November 2nd, 2009, and (2) NASA-CONAE AQUARIUS/SAC-D mission, using a three beam push-broom radiometer. In the SMOS mission, the multi-angle observation capabilities allow to simultaneously retrieve not only the surface salinity, but also the surface temperature and an “effective” wind speed that minimizes the differences between observations and models. In AQUARIUS, an L-band scatterometer measuring the radar backscatter (σ0
) will be used to perform the necessary sea state corrections. However, none of these approaches are fully satisfactory, since the effective wind speed captures some sea surface roughness effects, at the expense of introducing another variable to be retrieved, and on the other hand the plots (TB
) present a large scattering. In 2003, the Passive Advance Unit for ocean monitoring (PAU
) project was proposed to the European Science Foundation in the frame of the EUropean Young Investigator Awards (EURYI) to test the feasibility of GNSS-R over the sea surface to make sea state measurements and perform the correction of the L-band brightness temperature. This paper: (1) provides an overview of the Physics of the L-band radiometric and GNSS reflectometric observations over the ocean, (2) describes the instrumentation that has been (is being) developed in the frame of the EURYI-funded PAU
project, (3) the ground-based measurements carried out so far, and their interpretation in view of placing a GNSS-reflectometer as secondary payload in future SMOS follow-on missions.