The rocket lifted off shortly before 3 a.m. from the central California coast. The satellite was boosted into an orbit 500 miles above Earth about an hour after launch.
The satellite, which is about the size of a small SUV, aims at improving weather forecasts and monitoring climate change. It will also be used to test technologies for next-generation satellites, set to launch in a few years.
The launch could be spotted across Southern California. Vandenberg Air Force Base is about three hours away from Los Angeles.
Clear skies made it possible for space fans to see the launch from far away.
Tim Dunn, a launch director for NASA, said in streaming commentary on the agency's website that the flight "went terrific" and there "is a lot of celebration in the control room right now."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.