June 6th 2021, 12:26 AM Est atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Canaveral Space Force Station
Like me, you’re probably thinking didn’t we just see a launch a few day’s ago? Yes, we sure did when SpaceX under contract with NASA sent up a International Space Station resupply mission dubbed CRS-22. This very early morning’s launch is also a SpaceX launch but for a different contract. That of Sirius XM, the radio broadcasting company who launched the SXM-7 satellite last December via a SpaceX Falcon 9 as well. If you remember correctly SXM-7 was launched successfully and reached it’s intended orbit but then as it began it’s in orbit checks the satellite failed and the 225 million dollar project was lost. At this time the company has not released any more details about what went wrong. They feel confident the this morning’s launch won’t end the same way however.
SXM-8 will be replacing the SXM-4 satellite as it is more technologically advanced and become the sixth satellite in their constellation. From a GTO (geostationary transfer orbit) it will broadcast sports, music, news shows, and more to people who subscribe to the Sirius XM services. Built by Maxar Technologies it is based of their SSL-1300 satellite bus. This will be the ninth satellite Maxar has built for Sirius since 2000. Their Executive Vice President, Paul Estey had this to say on this mission, “Maxar and Sirius XM have a decades long relationship, and we’re thrilled to deliver the ninth satellite we’ve built for them since 2000.”
Weighing in at 7,000kg it’s been built out of lightweight, high strength materials and more fuel efficient and has better batteries and solar arrays than it’s predecessor. It should last fifteen years before needing replacement broadcasting within S-Band frequencies to the companies 34.9 million subscribers. The satellite constellation originally began back in 2008 shortly after Sirius and Sirius XM merged their companies and they launched their initial Sirius FM satellites. Six total were made, and all except one were launched to orbit. That one, Sirius FM 4 was never launched and is now on display at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. They were also originally launched in Russia between 2000 and 2010 using the Proton rockets. Sirius XM has since switched to using SpaceX and their Falcon 9 rockets to continue to launch and replace their older, outdated satellites. SXM-7
The rocket booster used for this mission is Falcon 9 1061, which until now has only ever flown the most precious cargo NASA has to offer, astronauts. Booster 1061 has the honor of carrying both Crew-1 & Crew-2 to orbit on their journey to the International Space Station, and is now making it’s third flight for SpaceX during this commercial mission as it no longer meets the requirements from NASA for human spaceflight. This will be it’s third flight in under seven months now, with the turn around time between its last flight at 44 days. It also marks the eighteenth flight of a Falcon 9 and the seventeenth re-flown booster this year as CRS-22 had a brand new booster for its mission launch. Our forecast for SXM-8 stood at a 70% chance of GO for launch at the T-minus 0 mark with debris & cumulous cloud rules being the primary concerns. The space coast has seen lots of clouds and rain the past several days and though the rain stopped the clouds still hung around for today’s launch.