Europe has sent a new weather satellite into space. Its operators hope that it will improve forecasters' ability to predict extreme weather conditions.
The satellite is one of two launched Thursday by the European space consortium Arianespace from its center in French Guiana. The other is a telecommunications satellite that will deliver broadband services across North America.
The "MSG-3" weather satellite, which was carried aloft by the Ariane 5 rocket, is to replace an older predecessor from the series Meteosat Second Generation (MSG).
The satellites observe Europe, Africa and the North Atlantic from a height of 36,000 kilometers. They are a joint project of Eumetsat and the European Space Agency.
The information they collect can be used by meteorologists and national weather services.
"These satellites guarantee weather forecasts of the highest quality," ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said.
Dordain said the data provided by the satellites would improve forecasts and produce "tangible economic advantages" by enabling meteorologists to give better notice of upcoming storms or droughts.
At present, Eumetsat, which is funded by 25 nations, is operating Meteosat-8 and Meteosat-9, both from the second generation of weather satellites. MSG-3 is the third satellite in this series. It will probably take over from Meteosat-8 in ten days' time when it takes up position in orbit and goes into operation.
The overall cost for all four satellites in the series is estimated at around 2.2 billion euros ($2.72 billion).
Arianespace has 21 shareholders from 10 European countries.
tj/slk (dpa, AP)