Falcon 9

SpaceX Falcon 9 Lifts Off for the Seventh time to deploy SiriusXM's SXM-7 Radio Satellite

SpaceX Falcon 9 Lifts Off for the Seventh time to deploy SiriusXM's SXM-7 Radio Satellite

Today, December 13, SpaceX deployed SiriusXM’s SXM-7 music-streaming satellite to upgrade the radio service’s constellation. At 12:30 p.m. EST, a six-times-flown Falcon 9 rocket booster lifted off for the seventh time into Florida’s clear aqua sky from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The previously flown first-stage booster that propelled the SXM-7 satellite to space this afternoon is identified as B1051. It is filled with scorch marks from reentering Earth’s atmosphere multiple times. The rocket previously supported SpaceX’s historic Demo-1 mission that launched an uncrewed Crew Dragon spacecraft for the first time to the International Space Station in March 2019. B1051 also propelled the RADARSAT mission, as well as four Starlink satellite launches in 2020.


SpaceX successfully recovered the rocket’s first-stage a seventh time approximately nine minutes after propelling SiriusXM’s satellite to orbit. Falcon 9’s booster landed on the ‘Just Read the Instructions’ droneship located around 633-kilometers downrange in the Atlantic Ocean. Its landing marked SpaceX’s 69th recovery of an orbital-class rocket booster. Recovering rockets to reuse reduces the cost of spaceflight. SpaceX engineers aim to reuse Falcon 9 boosters at least 10 times. To date, the most two particular boosters have flown is 7 times. Company officials state the Falcon 9 rocket in the Block 5 series is designed to conduct one hundred flights. 


Falcon 9's upper-stage deployed the 15,400-pound SXM-7 satellite into geostationary transfer orbit 31 minutes after liftoff. SXM-7 will broadcast its signal to tens of millions of SiriusXM Radio subscribers across North America. SiriusXM enables subscribers to stream commercial-free, personalized music and podcasts to their cars’ radio or online. Satellite radio enables a more stable connection compared to traditional terrestrial frequency modulation (FM) radio stations. Maxar Technologies developed the satellite for SiriusXM. The company states “SXM-7 will deliver the highest power density of any commercial satellite on-orbit, sending more than 8,000 watts of content to the continental U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, increasing the quality of signal for SiriusXM subscribers.” Maxar says the SXM-7 satellite is ‘designed to provide service for 15 years or longer.’


As of May 2017, SiriusXM has five music-beaming satellites in orbit: XM-3 and XM-4 and two Sirius FM-5 and FM-6 satellites, as well as one spare. In 2016, FM-6 was put into operational service and replaced Sirius originals FM-1 through FM-2 satellites. FM-1 through FM-3 were retired and placed into disposal orbits. Currently the only operational satellites are FM-5 and FM-6. The SXM-7 satellite was deployed to upgrade the constellation and replace the company’s XM-3 satellite. SXM-7 will be capable of generating over 20-kilowatts of power; It features a giant antenna reflector, which transmits signal to radios without the need for large dish antennas on Earth ground stations. While in orbit “the satellite will deploy a large unfurlable antenna reflector, which will enable broadcasts to mobile radios, such as those in moving vehicles,” Maxar Technologies said. SiriusXM also contracted SpaceX’s launch services to deploy the next satellite, SXM-8, which is also designed to upgrade the satellite radio constellation. The mission is scheduled for 2021.



Featured Image Source: SpaceX Livestream

About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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