A supply-filled Russian cargo carrier is in hot pursuit of the International Space Station tonight after launching from a spaceport on the central steppes of Kazakhstan.
Mounted atop a Soyuz U rocket, the Progress 46 space freighter blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome at 6:06 p.m. EST.
About 10 minutes later, it was zooming around the planet in low Earth orbit, its solar arrays and navigation antenna successfully deployed.
It was a chilly five degrees Fahrenheit at Baikonur when the Progress 46 set sail. The vehicle is the 46th Progress launched by Russia during the assembly and maintenance of the International Space Station. The spacecraft is hauling up about 6,000 pounds of supplies and equipment.
The launch was closely watched because a Progress freighter was destroyed in an Aug. 24 Soyuz U launch failure. An investigation into that accident cleared the way for the Oct. 30 launch of another Soyuz U rocket on a return-to-flight mission.
The Progress 46 spacecraft will carry out a series of trajectory correction burns over the next two days. It is expected to dock at the International Space Station at 7:08 p.m. EST Friday. Live NASA TV coverage will pick up here in The Flame Trench at 6:30 p.m. EST.
The station now is staffed by U.S. astronauts Dan Burbank and Don Pettit, European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers, and three Russian cosmonauts: Anatoly Ivanishin, Anton Skaplerov and Oleg Kononenko.
The ISS has been staffed continuously since the first expedition crew boarded the outpost on Nov. 2, 2000.