A Russian space freighter is being prepped for a planned launch tonight on the first of more than a half dozen 2012 supply runs to the International Space Station.
The Progress 46 spacecraft is slated to blast off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:06 p.m. EST today. You can watch live NASA TV coverage here in The Flame Trench beginning at 5:45 p.m. Click the NASA TV box on the right to launch our NASA TV viewer and live coverage.
The venerable workhorse will haul up about 6,000 pounds of food, water, air and other supplies to the outpost. Docking at the station is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. Friday. Live coverage of the link-up will begin here at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
The Progress 46 spacecraft is the first of five Russian cargo carriers scheduled to launch this year. Four additional Progress vehicles are to be launched on April 25, July 25, Oct. 23 and Dec. 26.
A European Automated Transfer Vehicle -- ATV-3 -- is scheduled to launch March 9 aboard an Ariane 5 rocket at Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana. A Japanese HTV cargo carrier is targeted to launch sometime around June 26.
Two U.S. companies -- SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. -- also hope to launch commercial cargo carriers to the station this year.
Filled with trash and surplus gear, the Progress 45 spacecraft will make a destructive plunge back through the atmosphere at about 9:25 p.m. tonight. Launched Oct. 30, the spacecraft undocked from the station Monday and will deploy an 88-pound science satellite prior to reentry. The satellite is equipped with instruments that will enable researchers to study plasma waves in low Earth orbit.