The latest weather satellite in Europe's highly successful Meteosat second-generation series is on its way after lifting off on an Ariane 5 rocket.

The satellite was launched on 5 July from Europe's Spaceport at the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana.

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), the satellite's sensors will ensure that Europe and Africa continue to receive up-to-date weather coverage.

Some 34 minutes into flight, the third Meteosat Second Generation satellite was released into its targeted elliptical transfer orbit. It is now being controlled from ESA's European Space Operations Centre, in Darmstadt, Germany.

In ten days, once the initial operations are completed, MSG-3 will be handed over to the satellite's owner, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites - EUMETSAT - to commission the payload.

After commissioning, when MSG-3 becomes Meteosat-10, it will be stationed at 0° longitude, over the Gulf of Guinea on the Equator, in geostationary orbit, where its speed precisely matches Earth's rotation.

"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," stated ESA's Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain.

"MSG-3 ensures the continuity of the present service. Together with EUMETSAT, ESA is working on the development of the next series of weather satellites, Meteosat Third Generation", said ESA's Director of Earth Observation, Volker Liebig.

Liebig also mentioned that once operational at the end of this decade, this next generation satellite would provide a quantum leap in terms of technology and performance, providing among others faster imaging, more spectral channels and atmospheric sounding capability for the measurements of trace gas profiles.

The second MetOp is at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, ready for launch on 19 September, 2012.