The U.S. government’s newest geostationary-orbiting weather satellite was successfully launched March 4 atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-P (GOES-P) spacecraft will join a long line of geostationary weather satellites that were first launched in 1975 to monitor and help predict the weather. In addition to tracking severe storms and other weather conditions, GOES-P will aid in search-and-rescue operations and also provide warning of solar flares that can disrupt sensitive electronics in space and on Earth.

The satellite is scheduled to reach its final orbital position March 13, where it will serve as a backup before eventually entering service covering the East Coast or West Coast of the United States. The nearly $500 million GOES-P is the third and final satellite in the current generation of geostationary weather satellites built by Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of Seal Beach, Calif. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., manages weather satellite development on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which operates the craft.

In 2008 Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., beat out Boeing and Northrop Grumman in the competition to build at least two of the next-generation GOES-R satellites, which are scheduled to begin launching in 2015.