Midnight Sunday Streak Hurls SiriusXM SXM-8 Digital Radio Satellite to Orbit on SpaceX Falcon 9: Photos

Midnight Sunday Streak Hurls SiriusXM SXM-8 Digital Radio Satellite to Orbit on SpaceX Falcon 9: Photos
Short but Sweet Streak Through Clouds with water reflection and uncommon Sun Pillar high in the midnight sky: Foreground crowd enjoys SpaceX Falcon 9 SXM-8 digital radio comsat midnight blastoff 12:29 AM EDT, June 6, 2021 from Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, in Florida. Visible about 20 seconds before disappearing behind thick low clouds – as seen from about 12 miles away along Indian River Lagoon, Titusville – in this long duration exposure single image. Now 3x flown Falcon 9 booster B1061 previously hurled 8 astronauts to ISS on Crew-1 and Crew-2 missions. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

TITUSVILLE, FL – Just past midnight Sunday, June 6, the SiriusXM SXM-8 digital audio radio satellite was hurled to orbit atop a ‘flight-proven’ SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket but soon disappeared behind low and thick clouds that mostly obscured the view but nonetheless delighted spectators with the cracking engine roar reverberating around the Florida Space Coast and simultaneously generated a rarely seen and rather eerie ‘sun pillar’ like feature high in the nighttime sky.

The veteran 229-foot-tall (70-meter) SpaceX Falcon 9 roared to life for the third time Sunday, June 6 at 12:26 a.m. EDT (0426 GMT) for launch of the Maxar built SXM-8 satellite at the opening of the one-hour and 59-minute launch window under cloud draped nighttime skies from Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, in Florida.

Short but Sweet Streak Through Clouds with water reflection and VAB: SpaceX Falcon 9 SXM-8 digital radio comsat midnight blastoff 12:29 AM EDT, June 6, 2021 from Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, in Florida. Visible about 20 seconds before disappearing behind thick low clouds – as seen from about 12 miles away along Indian River Lagoon, Titusville – in this long duration exposure single image. Now 3x flown Falcon 9 booster B1061 previously hurled 8 astronauts to ISS on Crew-1 and Crew-2 missions. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Eight and a half minutes later the 1st stage successfully soft landed on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship prepositioned in the Atlantic Ocean – thus completing its third trip to space and back after previously hauling 8 astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on the high profile and critical Crew-1 and Crew-2 astronaut missions in November 2020 and April 2021 respectively for NASA.

SXM-8 is aimed to deliver entertainment broadcast and data services broadcasts to tens of millions of subscribers across North America after reaching geostationary orbit

This launch follows up on the SXM-7 launch in Dec 2020 which malfunctioned in orbit and was declared a total loss.

This reused first stage booster B1061 launched and landed successfully on its third flight – setting up a fourth in the not too distant future

The nine Merlin 1D first stage engines fueled by liquid oxygen (LOX) and RP-1 propellants ignited to generate 1.7 million pounds of liftoff thrust and a huge plume of smoke as the rocket rode to orbit.

The rocket soared to space and was briefly visible for about 20 second or so when it flew into the low lying cloud deck, momentarily darting in and out of clouds until they hid the rockets fountain of flames.

Short but Sweet Streak Through Clouds in Fisheye view with water reflection and uncommon Sun Pillar high in the midnight sky: Foreground crowd enjoys SpaceX Falcon 9 SXM-8 digital radio comsat midnight blastoff 12:29 AM EDT, June 6, 2021 from Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, in Florida. Visible about 20 seconds before disappearing behind thick low clouds – as seen from about 12 miles away along Indian River Lagoon, Titusville – in this long duration exposure single image. Now 3x flown Falcon 9 booster B1061 previously hurled 8 astronauts to ISS on Crew-1 and Crew-2 missions. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

For a few short seconds a strange red feature appeared higher in the sky that the National Weather Service in Melbourne, Fl described as resembling a ‘sun pillar’ formed from a shaft of light from the sun

The SXM-8 satellite separated from the second stage and was deployed to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) as planned 31 minutes after liftoff

Next it was commanded to unfurl its solar panels and is healthy, Maxar confirmed via tweet:

It soon fired up thrusters to gradually achieve geostationary orbit

Here are some prelaunch views from the Maxar WorldView-3 geostationary satellite

Overall the SXM-8 launch marked SpaceX’s 18th of 2021 already and their 125th successful mission:

See our Space UpClose launch views

SpaceX Falcon 9 SXM-8 digital radio comsat midnight blastoff 12:29 AM EDT, June 6, 2021 from Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, in Florida. Visible about 20 seconds before disappearing behind thick low clouds – as seen from about 12 miles away along Indian River Lagoon, Titusville Now 3x flown Falcon 9 booster B1061. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The approximately 7,000 kg (15,000 pound) SXM-7 radio satellite was successfully launched and is functioning properly, prime contractor Maxar announced in a statement.

Maxar built SiriusXM SXM-8 satellite. Credit: Maxar

The SXM-8 satellite is built on Maxar’s 1300-CLASS PLATFORM. SXM-8 is designed to provide service for 15 years or longer.

Once on orbit, SXM-8 will unfurl its large antenna reflector.  This reflector will allow SiriusXM programming to reach mobile radios, such as those in moving vehicles.

“Maxar and SiriusXM have a decades-long relationship, and we’re thrilled to deliver the ninth satellite we’ve built for them since 2000,” said Paul Estey, Maxar’s Executive Vice President, Space Programs Delivery.

“SXM-8, built on Maxar’s proven 1300-class bus, is more than twice as big and powerful as the first-generation SiriusXM constellation built by Maxar.”

SXM-8 rendering. Credit: Maxar

 

Here is my pre-launch view of the payload fairing from the prior SXM-7 launch taken at pad 40.

Up Close view of the nose cone bolted atop SpaceX Falcon 9 encapsulating SiriusXM SXM-7 digital satellite radio satellite targeted for launch Dec. 13, 2020 from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Watch Ken’s continuing reports about SpaceX Cargo and Crew Dragons, Artemis and NASA missions, SLS, Orion, SpaceX  Starlink, Commercial Crew and Starliner and Crew Dragon and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Crew 1 & 2, ISS, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, NRO spysats and national security missions and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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Maxar built SiriusXM SXM-8 satellite. Credit: Maxar

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Ken Kremer

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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