Russia's Progress 46 spacecraft successfully roared into orbit late Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, initiating the first re-supply mission of 2012 to the International Space Station.
The unpiloted freighter, carrying nearly three tons of propellant, spare parts, supplies and research gear, water and compressed air, is scheduled to dock with the station's Russian segment Pirs module on Friday at 7:09 p.m., EST.Progress 46 departs from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the pre-dawn Thursday. Photo Credit/NASA TV
The capsule, secured atop a Soyuz-U booster, lifted off from the frigid Central Asian launch complex at 6:06 p.m., EST, or on Thursday just after 5 a.m., local time. Within 10 minutes, the three stage launcher placed the Progress in an initial orbit with solar arrays and communications antennas deployed.
The 240 mile high space station is staffed by the Expedition 30 crew comprised of six U.S., Russian and European astronauts.
The new capsule will occupy a station parking spot vacated Monday by the Progress 45 supply craft. Prior to making a destructive descent into the Earth's atmosphere late Tuesday, the trash laden craft deployed Russia's Chibis-M microsat. The 88 pound satellite will observe lightning discharges in the Earth's atmosphere over a four-year mission.
The discarded capsule docked with the station on Nov. 2.
The mission was the second for the Soyuz-U/Progress re-supply system since the Aug. 24 loss of the Progress 44 mission. The capsule crashed back to Earth after a third stage failure whose cause was traced to a fuel line blockage.