Earth-observing satellite boosted into orbit

By the Associated Press | October 28, 2011 | 6:50 AM EDT

This image provided by NASA shows the liftoff of the Delta II rocket with it's NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) spacecraft payload is seen shortly after launch Friday, Oct. 28, 2011, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. NPP is the first NASA satellite mission to address the challenge of acquiring a wide range of land, ocean, and atmospheric measurements for Earth system science while simultaneously preparing to address operational requirements for weather forecasting. (AP Photo/NASA - Bill Ingalls)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) — An Earth-observing satellite has been boosted into orbit to begin a dual mission to improve weather forecasts and monitor climate change.

A Delta 2 rocket carrying the NASA satellite blasted off shortly before 3 a.m. Friday from the central California coast. The satellite was placed into an orbit 500 miles above Earth about an hour after liftoff.

NASA invited a small group of Twitter followers to watch the launch up close.

The $1.5 billion mission was supposed to fly in 2006, but development problems delayed the launch for five years.