A rocket carrying a U.S.-French ocean-monitoring satellite lifted off early Friday from the central California coast.
The Delta 2 rocket blasted off at 12:46 a.m. PT (3:46 a.m. ET) after what officials called a "remarkably smooth" countdown. Video showed the satellite separating from the rocket moments after the launch.
"We can see the spacecraft gently drifting away," said the project's telemetry manager, Mark Lavigne.
The satellite, called Ocean Surface Topography Mission-Jason 2, will use a radar altimeter to precisely measure the height of the ocean surface, which changes depending on temperature. The data will be used to monitor effects of climate change on sea level and to improve global weather, climate and ocean forecasts, NASA said.
Such observations began in 1992 with a spacecraft dubbed TOPEX/Poseidon and have continued with the current Jason 1 satellite. The two Jasons will fly in tandem.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects to use the new satellite to improve hurricane forecasting.