U.S. military successfully launches weather satellite

A $518 million military weather satellite launched Thursday morning from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program 19 (DMSP-19) spacecraft lifted off from Space Launch Complex 3 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

The DMSP-5D3 F-19 satellite was the 52nd to launch as part of the DMSP program, which started in the 1960s as a way to monitor the cloud patterns over the former Soviet Union and parts of China. Today, the program provides real-time weather data to troops, among other functions.

The Air Force says the satellite will be especially useful at forecasting severe storms. It will also carry an array of sensors designed to collect meteorological data for analysis.

"The launch of DMSP-19 continues the vital weather support to operational commanders for another decade," said Colonel Scott Larrimore, director of the Space and Missile Systems Center's Defense Weather Systems Directorate, in a U.S. Air Force press release. "Congratulations to a great team, which included the 30th Space Wing, ULA, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman."

"Weather guides some of the most important decisions in the armed forces, from flight patterns to troop movements. Through DMSP, we're helping to provide safer, successful missions," Sue Stretch, DMSP program director at Lockheed Martin, told Space Flight Now.