Washington: US space agency, NASA, launched a first-of-its kind satellite on Friday that will transmit weather and climate data to help forecasters predict major storms and other changes in the environment.
The $1.5-billion National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP) took off aboard a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The NPP will circle the Earth at a height of 820 km in a polar orbit.
A clutch of five instruments onboard the satellite will study temperature and water in the atmosphere, the effect of clouds and aerosols on temperature and the response of plants on land and in the ocean to environmental changes.
Part of 14 Earth observation missions, currently being managed by NASA, project managers hope the NPP will remain operational for about five years.
The pioneering satellite should help forecasters and other monitors to issue warnings of severe weather events about five to seven days in advance, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.
The NPP will help fill in data gaps left by European weather observatories. According to NOAA officials, the satellite carries infrared and microwave instruments that are ''basically equivalent to a slight improvement over what we are using with the European satellites.''