UPDATE 1-Europe launches satellite to monitor environment, disasters
* Sentinel-1a satellite launched at 2102 GMT
* Satellite will provide radar images of Earth's surface
* Sentinel-1a is first of series in EU Copernicus project
* Satellites to help with disaster management, security (Recasts following successful launch, adds quotes)
By Victoria Bryan and Maria Sheahan
DARMSTADT, Germany, April 3 (Reuters) - Europe on Thursday launched the first satellite of its multibillion-euro Copernicus Earth observation project that will supply valuable images in the event of natural disasters or even a plane crash.
The Sentinel-1a satellite, which blasted off into Earth's orbit from Europe's spaceport in French Guiana at 2102 GMT, will be used to monitor sea ice, oil spills and land use and to respond to emergencies such as floods and earthquakes.
The satellite, which carries a 12-metre-long (40-foot-long) radar antenna and has two 10 metre-long solar panels, is now orbiting the planet at 693 km (439 miles) above the earth.
The Copernicus project, for which the European Union and the European Space Agency (ESA) have committed funding of around 8.4 billion euros ($11.5 billion) until 2020, is described by the ESA as the most ambitious earth observation programme to date. Continuación...