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SpaceX Launches Radio Satellite Aboard Falcon 9; Karen St. Germain Quoted

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SpaceX has launched the SXM-7 satellite for SiriusXM, a satellite radio company, aboard the Falcon 9 on Dec. 13, Space News reported on Monday. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launched from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 12:30 p.m. EST. 

The rocket’s upper stage deployed the SXM-7 satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit 31 minutes after liftoff, and the first stage successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. That stage made its seventh flight, having previously launched the Demo-1 commercial crew test flight, the Radarsat Constellation Mission and four sets of Starlink satellites.

SXM-7 is one of two new digital audio radio service satellites that SiriusXM ordered from Maxar Technologies in 2016. The satellite weighs close to 15.4 thousand pounds at launch, and will generate more than 20 kilowatts of power. Additionally, SXM-7 will deploy a large antenna that will broadcast programming for SiriusXM subscribers. 

The satellite is intended to replace XM-3, a satellite launched in 2005 and operating at 85 degrees west in geostationary orbit. A second satellite, SXM-8, will launch in 2021 to replace XM-4 at 115 degrees west.

The launch is the 24th orbital mission in 2020 for SpaceX, the most launches the company has performed in a single year. One more Falcon 9 launch is scheduled for this year, carrying a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) on a mission designated NROL-108. That launch is scheduled for no earlier than Dec. 17.

The launch follows SpaceX’s launch of a satellite designed to monitor sea levels across the globe under a U.S.-U.K. partnership in Nov. 2020. The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base Saturday on a mission to collect sea level data, support ship navigation and inform weather forecasts. 

“The changing Earth processes are affecting sea level globally, but the impact on local communities varies widely,” said Karen St. Germain, who leads NASA's Earth Science Division. She added that the spacecraft will help NASA further understand Earth's planetary changes with regard to sea level and the corresponding impact on coastal communities.

"These data, which can only be obtained by measurements from space, will bring a wide range of benefits to people around the globe, from safer ocean travel to more precise prediction of hurricane paths, from greater understanding of sea level rise to more accurate seasonal weather forecasts, and so much more," noted Alain Ratier, director-general of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites.