SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches broadcast satellite for SiriusXM


Continuing its rapid launch pace, SpaceX on Sunday fired a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a powerful next-generation SiriusXM radio satellite, marking the California rocketmaker’s 25th orbit flight so far this year.

The first stage of Falcon 9, making a record-breaking seventh flight, came to life at 12:30 p.m. EST, gently pushing the 229-foot-high rocket away from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral space station.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket pulls away from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station carrying a powerful next-generation SiriusXM broadcast satellite.

William Harwood / CBS News

Liftoff came two days after a last-minute cleanup on Friday due to an unspecified issue, but Sunday’s climb into space went without incident and the 15,000-pound SXM-7 satellite, built by Maxar Technologies, was released to fly alone approximately 32 minutes after takeoff.

The first stage of the Falcon 9, meanwhile, landed on an off-shore droneship after removing the craft from the dense lower atmosphere. This was the company’s 69th successful stage recovery, its 48th on a droneship and the seventh landing for the B1051 booster, tying a mark set by another booster last month.

Launched into an initially elliptical “transfer orbit”, the SXM-7 spacecraft will use onboard thrusters to circularize its altitude 22,300 miles above the equator where the satellites move in synchronization with the Earth’s rotation and appear stationary in the sky. This allows ground users to pick up signals without having to follow a moving target.

The SiriusXM-7 satellite has a large deployable antenna to broadcast radio programs directly to homes, businesses, cars, trucks and other vehicles. It will join five other satellites in the SiriusXM fleet, eventually replacing one of the older and less powerful models.

The first stage of the Falcon 9 landed on a drone at sea nearly nine minutes after launching its seventh mission. This was SpaceX’s 69th successful booster recovery, its 48th on a droneship.


Sunday’s launch closed eight particularly busy days for SpaceX.

Last Sunday the company spear a Dragon freighter bound for the International Space Station and monitored its automated docking at the lab complex on Monday before testing the firing of the engines on the first stage of the SiriusXM rocket later that evening.

SpaceX engineers at the company’s Boca Chica, Texas test facility then performed a spectacular test flight of a prototype Starship rocket on Wednesday. While the prototype was destroyed in a spectacular conflagration while attempting to land, the test was seen as a major milestone in the development of SpaceX’s next-generation super heavy rocket.

Sunday’s launch was SpaceX’s 25th Falcon 9 flight this year and the 102nd since the workaholic rocket’s debut in 2010. The company’s last launch of the year is expected Thursday, from Kennedy Space pad 39A. Center, to put a classified National Reconnaissance Office satellite into orbit.


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