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Sirius XM-8 Satellite Enters Orbit After SpaceX Rocket Launch

Newsweek logo Newsweek 6/6/2021 Matt Cannon
a city with smoke coming out of it: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lift-off © Joe Raedle / Staff/Getty Images SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lift-off

SpaceX's reusable Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched SiriusXM's SXM-8 satellite in the early hours of Sunday, the company has announced.

SXM-8 was later deployed and has begun an elliptic orbit around the Earth.

The $225 million satellite will replenish the fleet for SiriusXM, a New York-based broadcasting company that provides satellite radio programming. It is expected to provide service to its customers for 15 years.

An earlier launch for SiriusXM by SpaceX ended badly. SXM-7 was successfully launched in December but suffered an anomaly after reaching orbit. The failure resulted in the spacecraft being deemed unusable.

The latest mission was live-streamed on Twitter, YouTube and SpaceX's website.

Falcon 9's launch took place at 12:26 a.m. ET from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida,

It was the reusable rocket's third mission, having been previously used in the company's two astronaut flights so far. NASA astronauts to the International Space Station on the Crew-1 (in November 2020) and Crew-2 (in April) missions.

On its latest journey, the lower two-thirds of the rocket—which contains fuel and engines and is known as the "first stage"—boosted the 70m (229 ft) tall structure spaceward.

Another section, known as the "second stage," of the rocket was programmed to separate from this base about 2 minutes 30 seconds into the journey, carrying the satellite into space.

SXM-8 itself was stored in a protective pod at the very top of the rocket. That pod was jettisoned when it reached space and its protection was no longer required.

The lower section of the rocket returned to Earth and was later recovered by SpaceX's "Just Read the Instructions," an autonomous spaceport drone ship based in the Atlantic.

The company also hoped to recover the pod, which was on its first mission, using its Go Searcher and Go Navigator, two identical recovery vessels.

SpaceX, Elon Musk's private company, has now been involved in 125 launches and 87 landings, according to its website, since its first launch in September 2008.

In that time the company has reused 66 rockets, but its engineers are working on a fully reusable launch of a giant rocket, dubbed "Starship," which SpaceX hopes will be "capable of carrying humans to Mars and other destinations in the solar system."

Musk has repeatedly stated his main aim for SpaceX is to help colonize Mars.

Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy, SpaceX's current rockets, are too small to send people to Mars.

"This is going to sound totally nuts," Musk said of Starship in September 2019, "but I think we want to try to reach orbit in less than 6 months." He added that such a timeline was dependent on manufacturing improvements.

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