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Europe launches satellite to boost color vision of Earth

Europe's space program has launched one of its new generation of satellites aimed at giving scientists a better view of Earth. Sentinel-2A is equipped with new equipment that will allow it to pick out more colors.

The European Space Agency confirmed early on Tuesday that Sentinel-2A, the latest in its array of satellite aimed at monitoring environmental change, was safely in orbit.

The announcement came soon after the agency confirmed the satellite had successfully deployed its solar panels.

From an orbital spot 488 miles (786 kilometers) above Earth, the satellite will collect data to document environmental changes and help shape reaction to natural disasters.

The satellite was lifted into position by an unmanned Vega rocket that blasted off late on Monday from the Guiana Space Center at Kourou, French Guinana.

Sentinel-2A adds a high resolution capability to the EU's Copernicus monitoring system. It is the latest part of the 4.3-billion-euro ($4.85-billion) Sentinel program to upgrade Copernicus and will operate in tandem with another satellite, to be launched in 2016.

ESA Satellit Sentinel-2A

Sentinel-2A was developed with the intention of revisiting areas of interest more frequently than before

It will provide high-resolution imaging of vegetation, soil and freshwater to a resolution of 10 meters (32.5 feet), looping the world every 100 minutes. Equipped with the capability to scrutinize vegetation, Sentinal-2A could assist in improving food security and forest monitoring.

"By frequently revisiting areas, it will allow a new generation of operational products, from land cover and change detection maps, disaster maps and leaf area index to chlorophyll content and other bio-geophysical variables," said Volker Liebig, ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programmes.

The latest satellite's predecessor, Sentinel-1A, was launched in April 2014 to scan the Earth's surface with cloud-penetrating radar.

As one of the EU's flagship space initiatives, Copernicus monitors the world's land surfaces, oceans and atmosphere for evidence of environmental change and damage.

The European Remote Sensing Satellite, launched in 1995, was the first spacecraft to contribute to Copernicus. Initially known as Global Monitoring for Environment and Security, the initiative was renamed in 2013 after the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who determined that the Earth orbited the Sun.

rc/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)