The European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully launched its newest satellite into orbit from Europe's Space Port in Kourou, French Guiana.
It is the second satellite launched to join a constellation that forms the European Data Relay System (EDRS), which enables users to observe the Earth almost in real-time, helping to accelerate response times in emergencies.
It will take up position above Europe's low-Earth orbiting observation satellites, enabling the overall constellation to maintain an almost constant connection. Previously, these low orbiting satellites could only transmit information when in direct line-of-sight with their ground stations, which could lead to delays of up to 90 minutes in the transfer of images.
However, the new EDRS satellites can beam information back to Earth in almost real-time, which could prove pivotal during disaster recovery and extreme weather events.
The latest satellite was launched by the Ariane 5 heavy launcher rocket. The Ariane-generation spacecraft has long been the workhorse for Europe in the global space race, launching missions for over 30 years.
Europe's independent access to space
The ESA, which was created in 1975, has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia is an Associate Member.
The organisation develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed for Europe's participation in global space activities. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes as well as with Eumetsat for the development of meteorological missions.