Continuing its rapid launch pace, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a powerful next-generation SiriusXM radio satellite on Sunday, marking the California-based rocketmaker’s 25th flight into orbit so far this year.
Falcon 9’s first stage, making a record seventh flight, sprung to life at 12:30 p.m. EST, gently pushing the 229-foot-tall rocket off pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Liftoff came two days after a last-minute scrub on Friday due to an unspecified issue, but the climb into space on Sunday was uneventful and the 15,000-pound SXM-7 satellite, built by Maxar Technologies, was released to fly alone approximately 32 minutes after takeoff.
The Falcon 9 first stage, meanwhile, landed on an off-shore drone after propelling the craft out of the dense lower atmosphere. It was the company’s 69th successful stage recovery, its 48th on a droneship and the seventh landing for the B1051 booster, tying a mark set by another booster last month.
Launched into an initially elliptical “transfer orbit”, the SXM-7 spacecraft will use onboard thrusters to circularize its altitude 22,300 miles above the equator where the satellites move in sync with the Earth’s rotation and appear stationary in the sky. This allows users on the ground to pick up signals without having to track a moving target.
The SiriusXM-7 satellite features a large deployable antenna to broadcast radio programming directly to homes, businesses, cars, trucks and other vehicles. It will join five other satellites in the SiriusXM fleet, eventually replacing one of the older, less powerful models.
Sunday’s launch capped a particularly busy eight days for SpaceX.
Last Sunday, the companya Dragon freighter to the International Space Station and monitored its automated docking at the lab complex on Monday before testing the firing of the SiriusXM rocket’s first-stage engines later that evening.
SpaceX engineers at the company’s test facility in Boca Chica, Texas, then performed a spectacular test flight of a prototype Starship rocket on Wednesday. While the prototype wasduring the landing attempt, the test was seen as a major milestone in the development of SpaceX’s next-generation super-heavyweight rocket.
Sunday’s launch was SpaceX’s 25th Falcon 9 flight this year and the 102nd since the workhorse rocket’s debut in 2010. The company’s final launch of the year is scheduled for Thursday, from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, to put a classified National Reconnaissance Office satellite into orbit.