SpaceX launched another Falcon 9 rocket early Sunday from Cape Canaveral, which propels the SiriusXM-8 radio satellite into orbit to relay entertainment programming to receivers in cars, boats, homes and offices.
The previous Maxar-built satellite in the series, SXM-7, failed a few weeks after launching atop another Falcon 9 last December. But two older relay stations remain fully operational and SiriusXM plans to build a replacement for the one that failed.
The last mission began at 12:26 a.m. EDT when Falcon 9 on pad 40 of the Cape Canaveral space station fired its nine first-stage engines, pushing the 229-foot-high rocket into a cloudy overnight sky with a flaming exhaust jet roar. It was the company’s 18th Falcon 9 flight this year and its 121st overall.
Soaring eastward over the Atlantic Ocean with a thrust of 1.7 million pounds, the first stage of the rocket, on its third flight, provided a familiar but still dramatic spectacle visible to dozens. miles around the Florida Space Coast.
Two and a half minutes after takeoff, the engines on the first stage stopped, the stage collapsed and the flight continued thanks to the single Merlin vacuum engine powering the second stage of the booster.
The first stage, meanwhile, rolled over, fired three motors to slow down for the return to the lower atmosphere, then used a single motor to brake to land on a SpaceX drone parked several hundred miles away.
The target landing was SpaceX’s 65th successful booster recovery at sea, and its 87th overall.
The second stage carried out two engine shots to reach the planned elliptical orbit, freeing the SXM-8 satellite to fly on its own 32 minutes after takeoff. The satellite will use its own propulsion system over the next few weeks to reach the required circular orbit 22,300 miles above the equator.
The 15,400-pound SXM-8 spacecraft features a large, flat-shaped mesh antenna designed to relay programming to mobile radios across North America. The satellite has a nominal life of 15 years.
SiriusXM originally planned to replace two older satellites, XM-3 and XM-4 – dubbed Rhythm and Blues respectively – with SXM-7, launched last December, and the same SXM-8, launched on Sunday.
With the failure of SXM-7 earlier this year, it’s unclear which of the older SXM-8 satellites will replace once it’s fully activated.
Regardless, company officials said the loss of SXM-7, which was insured for $ 225 million, would have no impact on program delivery and that the two older satellites remain. in good health. Another older generation satellite, XM-5, is available as an orbital spare if required.