John Raoux  /  AP
A Boeing Delta 4 rocket with a weather satellite payload lifts off from Launch Complex 37B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Wednesday.
updated 5/24/2006 7:41:23 PM ET 2006-05-24T23:41:23

After months of delay, NASA on Wednesday launched a next-generation weather satellite that will allow forecasters to better pinpoint severe storms and investigate world climate change.

The GOES-N satellite took off at 6:11 p.m. ET on a Boeing Delta 4 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The last time a Delta 4 rocket flew, a test flight of the rocket's heavy-lift model in December 2004, it failed to put a dummy satellite into its intended orbit.

A launch scheduled last August was scrubbed after an alarm indicated low voltage on batteries that power the system allowing the rocket to transmit data to ground stations, including its location. The delay was the latest in a series of setbacks dating back to last May.

The GOES-N is a step in the development of the GOES family of weather satellites, designed and built by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration since 1975. It is the first in a series of three new satellites.

"It's not revolutionary ... but it has evolutionary improvements," said Steve Kirkner, GOES program manager for NOAA. "What this will provide is better knowledge ... better information."

The satellite carries instruments that will be able to transmit high-resolution images, infrared data and temperature and moisture profiles of the atmosphere. The instruments allow meteorologists on the ground to take images of weather problem spots and improve short-term forecasts locally.

The Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1, but the satellite likely won't be in use for at least two years.

"The opportunity to talk about a new GOES launch is almost like talking about Christmas, from the standpoint of having another operational tool for us to add to our arsenal in the fight against hurricanes, tornadoes and other types of severe weather," said Steve Letro, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Jacksonville.

GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites.

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