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Huge US satellite launches aboard European rocket

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The EchoStar 17 satellite is a huge spacecraft that weighs 13,448 pounds (6,100 kilograms) at liftoff. It is a next-generation broadband satellite designed to provide services to users in North America for 15 years. [Amazing Rocket Launch Photos

The MSG-3 spacecraft is the latest weather satellite to join Europe's Meteosat fleet in space. The 4,409-pound (2,000-kilogram) satellite is designed to provide high-resolution images of Europe, Africa and the North Atlantic to help meteorologist generate more accurate weather forecasts.

The satellite is currently being controlled by the European Space Agency's (ESA) operations center in Darmstadt, Germany. But after a testing period to ensure the satellite is operating properly, control of the MSG-3 spacecraft will be turned over to its owners: the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), ESA officials said. Once that handover occurs, the satellite will be rechristened Meteosat-10, they added.

"Tonight's launch allows EUMETSAT and ESA to continue providing Europeans with high quality observations of weather from space, with MSG-3 being especially valuable in rapid detection and warning of extreme weather situations," ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said in a statement.

ESA has been working together with EUMETSAT to develop the Meteosat weather-monitoring satellites, as well as another Earth-observing system known as polar-orbiting MetOp. The two agencies are also working on a more advanced Meteosat system, the Meteosat Third Generation, to advance weather forecasting efforts even more, ESA officials said.

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