12:30 PM Est Dec. 13th 2020, atop a Falcon 9 rocket from SLC-40 at Canaveral Air Force Station.
No, I’m not joking this really is the most Sirius launch of the year. Sirius XM that is, the satellite radio provider. An American broadcasting company based in Manhattan, New York City, Sirius XM provides satellite, and online radio services operating the United States to almost 20 million subscribers.
With today’s launch the company will have sent eleven satellites to orbit. SXM-7 is a 7,000 kilogram radio communications satellite built to work across the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean for subscribers to the service. Though not all the satellites are still in operation, one never even launching. Sirius FM-4 was a spare built and never used so in 2012 the broadcasting company donated it to the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. As of 2017 there were five satellites in orbit for the company, two XM and two Sirius satellites. SXM-7 will be replacing the XM-3, which is one of the two primary XM satellites in current operation. In 2016 Sirius XM placed an order to begin replacing the current constellation, with the newer versions being capable of broadcasting both the XM and regular Sirius channels.
Scrubbed Friday morning, Dec. 11th, with thirty seconds left on the countdown, the company was forced to stand down due to upper level winds. If there is too much wind shear it can severely damage the rocket as it launches at incredible speed to reach the destined orbit. There fore these winds are closely monitored, but not included in the weather forecast which as listed at 80% GO for launch that day. Today’s weather forecast courtesy of the 45th Space Wing was listed at 60% GO for launch, with 40% chance of violating these conditions with the Cumulous Cloud rule being the primary concern. As time for fueling begin we saw non of the tell tail signs things were progressing forward, the tweet about it, the venting seen from the rocket, and shortly after when the rocket should have started propellant load SpaceX tweeted out they were pushing the launch to 12:30 PM Est as the weather forecast improved to 80% favorable conditions.
Flying today’s satellite to orbit was none other than SpaceX Falcon 9 block five booster number 1051. When it touched down on the autonomous drone ship “Just read the Instructions” around eight minutes after this mornings launch it became the second Falcon 9 first stage booster to ever make the trip to space and back seven successful times. Originally flying in March of 2019 on the DM-1 mission from historic launch complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. From there 1051 went West to Vandenburg Air Force Base in California to fly the RCMx3 mission at SpaceX’s LC-4. We saw it’s next flight in January of 2020 all the way back in Florida, this time from SLC-40 at the then Canaveral Air Force Station. It’s name was Changed Wednesday December 9th 2020 to Canaveral Space Force Station and today was the second ever launch there. More importantly, as you just read booster 1051 has flown from all three SpaceX launch sites inside the United States, the first ever to do so. That wasn’t enough for for our fearless booster though as it has gone on to fly three more Starlink missions before launching for Sirius XM today. In February, and then March of 2020 SpaceX had two boosters fail to land successfully atop the autonomous drone ship out in the Atlantic Ocean. These failures happened back to back and both on Starlink missions. April of 2020, 1051 was slated the next after those two failures to land and broke the curse as it successfully came down, and not a single booster has failed since then. Along with today being the 7th flight of booster 1051, today’s mission also marks the 69th successful landing of a Falcon 9 rocket, the 25th flight of one this year, the 102nd launch of the model Falcon 9 and the 61st launch for one off of SLC-40.