Progress 45

New Robotic Russian Space Freighter Launched into Orbit

A Russian Soyuz rocket launched the new Progress 46 cargo ship toward the International Space Station at 6:06 p.m. EST Jan. 25, 2012 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The Progress 46 spacecraft is due to arrive at the space station on Friday to deliver about 2.9 tons of cargo to the outpost’s six-man crew. The space station is currently home to three Russians, two Americans and a Dutch astronaut. Progress 46, or vehicle M-14M as it is known in Russia, is the first of several spacecraft to visit the International Space Station this year. It is packed with 2,050 pounds (930 kilograms) of fuel, 110 pounds (50 kg) of oxygen and air, 926 pounds (420 kg) of water and 2,778 pounds (1,260 kg) of spare parts and experiment gear. The launch of Progress 46 comes just two days after the departure of an older cargo ship, Progress 45, from the space station. The Progress 45 spacecraft undocked from the orbiting lab on January 23 and was disposed of in Earth’s atmosphere a day later. Before Progress 45 burned up on Tuesday it deployed a novel miniature satellite called Chibis-M. The 88-pound (40-kg) microsatellite was released in an orbit that is slight higher than that of the International Space Station. According to NASA it is expected to spend several years studying how plasma waves interact with Earth’s ionosphere. The next big departure at the International Space Station will come on March 16, when the outpost’s current commander and two crewmates are due to return to Earth. They will be replaced by a fresh three-person team slated to launch aboard a Soyuz spacecraft on March 30.