Santa's Sleigh on the way to the International Space Station

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Santa's Sleigh on the way to the International Space Station

Santa's sleigh, in the form of a Russian cargo spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station.

The Progress spaceship launched at 4:19:31 p.m. CST from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, and less than 10 minutes later settled into orbit. The Station was flying over western Chile at an altitude of 225 statute miles at the time of lift off.

Engine firings are scheduled overnight to raise and refine the Progress' orbit and its path to the Station for an automated docking at 5:31 p.m. CST Dec. 25. It will dock to the aft port of the Station's Zvezda living quarters module.

The Progress is carrying 5,000 pounds of food, fuel, oxygen, water, spare parts and holiday presents to the crew. It's loaded with 1,234 pounds of propellant, 110 pounds of oxygen and air, 926 pounds of water, and more than 2,700 pounds of spare parts, life support system components and experiment hardware. The manifest also includes about a 112-day supply of food in 69 containers to replenish the Station pantry. Other items on the Progress include new laptop computers, replacement parts for the U.S. spacesuits and additional components for the arrival next year of the European Automated Transfer Vehicle, another type of automated cargo craft.

The Progress spacecraft that had been at the Station since August was undocked yesterday by Russian flight controllers at 1:37 p.m. CST. Filled with discarded items, it was commanded to deorbit about four hours later and burned up in the Earth's atmosphere.

U.S. Astronaut Leroy Chiao's blog and all NASA updates at AsianConnections.com are monitored by AC Editor Lia Chang