The French-US oceanographic monitoring satellite Jason 2, designed to measure rising sea levels and track the effects of climate change, was successfully launched into space Friday, NASA said.
"Lift-off of the Delta 2 (rocket), with Jason 2 for the ocean survey topography mission, measuring sea level from space," a NASA official announced moments after the 0746 GMT launch from California's Vandenberg Air Force base.
"Everything is going according to the... flight path," a second official said minutes after the liquid-oxygen-fueled rocket sent an explosive arc of light into the night sky, some 160 miles (256 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.
Jason 2 is a high-tech oceanography space lab designed to provide precise monitoring of rising sea levels and currents, which are among the most serious consequences of global warming, threatening dozens of island nations and highly populated delta regions especially in Asia and Africa.
The OSTM/Jason 2 mission is a partnership between the US space agency NASA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the French National Center of Space Studies (CNES) and the European satellite agency EUMETSAT.
Fifty-five minutes after lift-off, with the rocket and rocket boosters separated from the spacecraft, Jason 2 was to reach its orbit of some 830 miles (1,335 kilometers) above the Earth.
It then deploys its solar panels and orients them toward the Sun to charge its batteries ahead of a series of instrumentation preparations and tests.
Jason 2 is programmed to maneuver into the same orbit as its predecessor Jason 1, which was launched in 2001, and eventually replace the older craft.