A Russian space freighter docked at the International Space Station tonight, hauling up three tons of supplies and equipment to the six astronauts and cosmonauts living and working in the orbital research laboratory.
The Progress 46 spacecraft linked up with the station's Russian Pirs docking compartment at 7:09 p.m. EST, completing a two-day trip that began with a launch Wednesday from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Oleg Kononenko monitored the automated docking, ready to remotely take manual control of the incoming robotic cargo carrier if need be. Leak checks were conducted before the hatch to the craft was opened. And the crew on the station then prepared to offload 2.9 tons of food, fuel and equipment.
Also onboard the station: U.S. astronauts Dan Burbank and Don Pettit, European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers and Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin.
The docking marked the first of up to five supply runs by Russian Progress vehicles this year. European and Japanese cargo carriers are scheduled to arrive in March and late June.
The first deliveries by U.S. commercial carriers are expected by the end of the year.