Sirius on the launching pad


Some AM towers have been standing for the better part of a century, but it doesn’t work that way for satellite radio, whose orbiting signal relays have to be replaced on a regular basis. A new satellite for the Sirius side of Sirius XM is sitting atop a Proton M rocket in Kazakhstan, ready to be fired into space next week.

Sirius FM-5 is to be carried into space by the rocket fired from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, once the launch site of the Soviet space program and now doing a thriving business as a commercial launch site. The Russian-made Proton M rocket will hoist the satellite made by Space Systems/Loral, which provided $100 million of vendor financing as part of the deal to build the satellite.

Launch is set for 1:10 am Tuesday, June 30 in Kazakhstan, which will be 3:10 pm ET on Monday, June 29 in the United States. Live video will be available on the International Launch Services website,

This will be the first geostationary satellite for Sirius, which has three satellites currently operating in elliptical orbits. (#4 is an earth-bound spare at this point.) XM uses only geostationary satellites (two active, plus its two oldest still in orbit as spares), but has far more terrestrial repeaters because it does not have the high signal elevation angles of the Sirius elliptical orbits.

XM’s four satellites were all made by Boeing, but post-merger it is also switching to the Loral FS-1300 model used by Sirius. According to the Sirius XM annual report, XM-5 is expected to launch in late 2009 or early 2010 from the Sea Launch floating platform in the Pacific Ocean near the equator.

RBR/TVBR observation: Yes, they’re expensive. But at least Sirius XM doesn’t have to worry about painting them or replacing light bulbs.