CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - After months of delay, NASA on Wednesday launched a weather satellite that will allow forecasters to better pinpoint severe storms and investigate world climate change.

The GOES-N satellite took off about 6 p.m. on a Boeing Delta 4 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The satellite separated from the rocket as scheduled about 10:30 p.m., putting it on a path for orbit.

The last time a Delta 4 rocket flew - a test flight of the rocket's heavy-lift model in December 2004 - it failed to put a dummy satellite into its intended orbit.

A launch scheduled last August was scrubbed after an alarm indicated low voltage on batteries powering the system that allows the rocket to transmit data to ground stations. The delay was the latest in a series of setbacks dating to last May.

The GOES-N is a step in the development of a family of weather satellites designed and built by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration since 1975. It is the first in a series of three new satellites.

"It's not revolutionary ... but it has evolutionary improvements," said Steve Kirkner, GOES program manager for NOAA. "What this will provide is better knowledge ... better information."

GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites.

The satellite carried instruments to transmit high-resolution images, infrared data, and temperature and moisture profiles of the atmosphere. The instruments would allow meteorologists on the ground to take images of weather problem spots and improve short-term forecasts locally.

Steve Letro of the National Weather Service likened the new satellite to a Christmas gift. It gives meterologists another tool in "the fight against hurricanes, tornadoes and other types of severe weather," he said.

The spacecraft probably won't be in use for at least two years, until one of two satellites currently in orbit runs out of fuel or fails.