NASA launches Global Precipitation Measurement satellite

(CNN) -- A new NASA satellite designed to track worldwide rain and snowfall roared into orbit atop a Japanese rocket early Friday (Thursday afternoon ET).

The Global Precipitation Measurement satellite is the first of five Earth science launches NASA has planned for 2014. The satellite is a joint project with the Japanese space agency JAXA and lifted off from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center at 3:37 a.m. Friday (1:37 p.m. Thursday ET).

Once aloft and activated, GPM will use both radar and microwave instruments to measure falling rain -- and for the first time, falling snow -- from orbit. The satellite will be able to beam back a snapshot of worldwide precipitation every three hours, NASA says.

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