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updated 4/22/2012 1:34:11 PM ET 2012-04-22T17:34:11

An unmanned Russian supply ship arrived at the International Space Station Sunday (April 22) carrying tons of fresh supplies in an Earth Day delivery for the orbiting lab's crew.

The robotic Progress 47 cargo ship docked with the space station at 10:39 a.m. EDT (1439 GMT), ending a two-day flight that began with an eye-catching launch.  The two spacecraft were sailing 249 miles (400 kilometers) over northern China, just south of the Mongolia border, when Progress 47 parked itself at the orbiting lab.

"Congratulations on a successful automatic docking," flight controllers in Russia's Mission Control Center in Moscow radioed the station crew in Russian.

The Progress supply ship is filled with more than 2.8 tons of food, equipment and other gear for the six-man crew living aboard the space station. Its arrival, which occurred on Earth Day by coincidence, comes just days after the departure of its predecessor Progress 46 from the station, and a week before the much-anticipated launch the first private U.S. cargo ship to the orbiting lab — the robotic Dragon capsule built by California-based SpaceX. Dragon is slated to launch on April 30.

With the retirement of NASA's space shuttle fleet last year, the space agency is dependent on Russia's Progress vehicles and similar robotic space trucks launched by Japan and Europe to ferry its supplies to the station. The Dragon capsule will be the first of two private U.S. spacecraft to take on the job with it begins operational flights.

Russia's Progress space cargo trucks are similar in appearance to the three-module Soyuz vehicles used to ferry crews to and from the International Space Station. Both vehicles have a propulsion module and orbital module, but the progress carries a fuel-laden module for the station's thrusters in place of the central crew capsule used on Soyuz flights. [ How Russia's Progress Spaceships Work (Infographic) ]

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Progress 47 is filled with vital supplies for the space station's Expedition 30 crew, which includes three Russians, two Americans and one Dutch astronaut. The supply ship is carrying about 110 pounds (50 kilograms) of oxygen and air, 926 (420 kg) pounds of water, 1,988 (901 kg) pounds of propellant and 2703 pounds (1,226 kg) of dry supplies such as food, spare parts and experiment gear.

The arrival of Progress 47 comes at a busy time for the International Space Station. On Friday (April 27), three station crewmembers will return to Earth to wrap up their months-long mission. NASA astronaut Daniel Burbank, the station's Expedition 30 commander, and cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin are expected to return home aboard a Soyuz space capsule and land on the steppes of Kazakhstan in Central Asia.

Then comes the anticipated Dragon launch, which if all goes well, will occur on April 30 and be followed by a rendezvous at the space station a few days later. Astronauts aboard the station will use the outpost's robotic arm to grapple the Dragon capsule and attach to an empty port.

Three new space station crewmembers are slated to launch aboard a Soyuz spacecraft on May 17.

You can follow SPACE.com Managing Editor Tariq Malik on Twitter@tariqjmalik. Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter@Spacedotcomand onFacebook.

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Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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  1. Southern stargazing

    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

    The International Space Station's Canadian-built robotic arm moves toward Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus autonomous cargo craft as it approaches the station for a Jan. 12 delivery. The mountains below are the southwestern Alps. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Accidental art

    A piece of art? A time-lapse photo? A flickering light show? At first glance, this image looks nothing like the images we're used to seeing from the Hubble Space Telescope. But it's a genuine Hubble frame that was released on Jan. 27. Hubble's team suspects that the telescope's Fine Guidance System locked onto a bad guide star, potentially a double star or binary. This caused an error in the tracking system, resulting in a remarkable picture of brightly colored stellar streaks. The prominent red streaks are from stars in the globular cluster NGC 288. (NASA / ESA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Where stars are born

    An image captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This false-color infrared view, released on Jan. 15, spans about 40 light-years across the region. The brightest portion of the nebula is centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But Spitzer also can detect stars still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. (NASA / JPL-Caltech) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cygnus takes flight

    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A long, long time ago...

    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

    Sun dogs are bright spots that appear in the sky around the sun when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. These sun dogs appeared on Jan. 5 amid brutally cold temperatures along Highway 83, north of Bismarck, N.D. The temperature was about 22 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50-below-zero wind chill.

    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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