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01.14.2021 | Space Infrastructure

Your Favorite SiriusXM Channel, Brought to You From Space

By: Joe Foust, Program Manager for SXM-7/8, Maxar Technologies

Read Time: 3 minutes

Barely 20 years since the introduction of satellite radio to North America, the industry has seen challenges, changes and innovation. SiriusXM is now an essential source for audio entertainment—and it is one of many things integral to our daily lives on Earth but enabled by technology in space. As the leader in satellite radio, SiriusXM partners with the leader in space manufacturing, Maxar, to build the spacecraft needed to bring this service to home, office and mobile listeners across the continent.

Maxar has been building—yes, during a pandemic—SXM-7 and SXM-8, two large high-power broadcasting satellites, to replace the Boeing-built XM-3 and XM-4 as those satellites near their end-of-life. SXM-7 and SXM-8 are built on the versatile 1300-class spacecraft platform, the world's most trusted spacecraft platform. The quality and reliability of Maxar-built spacecraft ensures tens of millions of SiriusXM customers across the U.S. and Canada have access to the radio content they want—at all times. Starting this year, all service-providing SiriusXM satellites will be Maxar-built satellites. (We built the first- and second-generation Sirius satellites, too.)

Despite the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic, SXM-7 was shipped on October 3, 2020 and launched on December 13, 2020. SXM-7 was built in our Palo Alto, California facility, among the first areas in the U.S. to shelter in place in early 2020. Wrenches don’t turn themselves, and we were able to have critical staff report to work—taking precautions with masks, social distancing, temperature monitoring and providing food to all on-site personnel. Having constant Zoom meetings was (is!) tough but combining remote tasks with work in our clean room has been far more effective than we could have imagined. The launch date for SXM-8 is currently targeted for the first half of 2021.

The launch of the SXM-7 mission on December 13, 2020 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. Image credit: SpaceX

Maxar helped Sirius Satellite Radio establish this new industry two decades ago, with the best Direct Audio Radio Service (DARS) satellites. Since then, the power and capabilities have doubled and we now help SiriusXM figure out how best to use the spectrum and equipment well into the future, to ensure the best service for subscribers and flexible features for operators.

Launch is not the end of the road for Maxar’s involvement with SXM-7and SXM-8. After launch, we are responsible for orbit raising. Once SpaceX’s Falcon 9 dropped our satellite into a lower orbit, the satellite took approximately two weeks to reach its geosynchronous in-orbit test position. Now, it’s undergoing in-orbit testing. Next week, Maxar will be turning over control of the satellite to SiriusXM and their operator. Of course, we will continue to provide any on-orbit support to SiriusXM and answer any questions to best ensure service to their customers.

From a California clean room to your radio, Maxar is proud to partner with SiriusXM and deepen our commitment to improving life on Earth through technology in space.

Watch the full launch of the SXM-7 mission here.

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