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Revolutionary weather satellite blasts off

New GOES-R satellite features a camera that will provide near real-time high-resolution imagery.

An artist's rendering of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's GOES-R weather satellite.

Lockheed Martin

A powerful new weather satellite launched into orbit Saturday promises to revolutionize forecasts and possibly save lives.

Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the GOES-R will track hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning storms and even solar flares. The centerpiece of an $11 billion effort to upgrade the nation's aging weather forecasting system, the satellite features six state-of-the-art instruments, including a powerful camera that will provide near real-time high-resolution imagery.

"NOAA's GOES-R satellite, with its advanced technologies, will be a game changer for weather forecasting and climate science for many years to come," Stephen Volz, associate administrator for satellite and information services at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told CBS News.

"This new four-satellite GOES series is really a quantum leap above any satellite NOAA has ever flown," he said. "Without a doubt, GOES-R will revolutionize weather forecasting as we know it."

NBC meteorologist Al Roker, one of 50 TV meteorologists to attend the launch, agreed with Volz.

"What's so exciting is that we're going to be getting more data, more often, much more detailed, higher resolution," Roker said during the launch, reports Space.com. The weatherman further notes that in the case of tornadoes or hurricanes, "if we can give people another 10, 15, 20 minutes, we're talking about lives being saved."

The GOES, which stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, will be parked in a geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above the equator, allowing it to continuously observe the entire western hemisphere.