SpaceX launched another Falcon 9 rocket earlier in the week from Cape Canaveral, launching the SiriusXM-8 radio satellite into orbit to transmit entertainment to receivers in cars, boats, homes and offices.
The previous Maxar-built satellite in the series, the SXM-7, failed a few weeks after the launch of the top of another Falcon 9 last December. But two older relay stations remain fully operational, and SiriusXM plans to build a replacement for the failed one.
The last mission began at 12:26 a.m. EDT when Falcon 9 on Landing 40 at Cape Canaveral space station ignited its nine first-stage engines, pushing the 229-foot rocket into a cloudy night sky with a roaring jet of fiery exhaust. This was Falcon 9’s 18th flight so far this year and 121st in total.
Climbing east across the Atlantic with a thrust of 1.7 million pounds, the first stage of the rocket, making its third flight, gave a familiar but still dramatic show, visible for tens of miles around the cosmic coast of Florida.
Two and a half minutes after takeoff, the engines of the first stage shut down, the scene dropped and the flight continued with the power of the single vacuum engine Merlin, feeding the second stage of the booster.
Meanwhile, the first stage reversed, fired three engines to slow down to return to the lower atmosphere, and then used one engine to stop the SpaceX spacecraft, a few hundred miles down.
The target touchdown was SpaceX’s 65th successful recovery at sea and 87th overall.
The second stage fired two shots at the engine to reach the planned elliptical orbit, releasing the SXM-8 satellite to fly alone 32 minutes after takeoff. The satellite will use its own propulsion system over the next few weeks to reach the required circular orbit of 22,300 miles above the equator.
The 15,400-pound SXM-8 spacecraft features a large, dish-shaped network antenna designed to transmit programming to mobile radio stations in North America. The satellite has a design life of 15 years.
SiriusXM originally planned to replace two older satellites, the XM-3 and XM-4 – nicknamed Rhythm and Blues, respectively – with the SXM-7, launched last December, and the identical SXM-8, launched on Sunday.
With the failure of the SXM-7 earlier this year, it is not yet known which of the older satellites will replace the SXM-8 once it is fully activated.
However, the company said that the loss of the SXM-7, which is insured for $ 225 million, will not affect the implementation of the program and that both older satellites remain healthy. Another older generation satellite, the XM-5, is available as an orbital reserve if needed.