Earth-observing satellite blasts off

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) ? An Earth-observing satellite has been launched on 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 space agency invited a small group of Twitter followers to watch the liftoff up close.

The path to the launch pad has been bumpy. The satellite was supposed to fly in 2006, but problems developing the instruments forced a five-year delay.

The $1.5 billion mission is intended to be a bridge between the current aging satellites and a new generation to be launched in a few years.