Has a $225 million SiriusXM satellite failed just 6 weeks after launch?

Just six weeks after it was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, the SiriusXM SXM-7 satellite appears to have failed.
The SiriusXM SXM-7 satellite that was launched aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on December 13 appears to have failed | Image credit: Maxar Technologies

Satellite radio provider SiriusXM has revealed that its $225 million SXM-7 satellite may have failed just six weeks after it was launched.

The revelations were part of January 27 SiriusXM filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). According to the company, problems started to arise during in-orbit testing of the SXM-7 satellite.

“During in-orbit testing of SXM-7, events occurred which have caused failures of certain SXM-7 payload units. An evaluation of SXM-7 is underway. The full extent of the damage to SXM-7 is not yet known.”

The SXM-7 satellite was built by Maxar Technologies and launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on December 13. The satellite was expected to strengthen SiriusXM’s coverage across the United States while expanding it into Canada and the Caribbean.

Despite the loss, SiriusXM has confirmed that the loss will not affect its service.

“Our XM-3 and XM-4 satellites continue to operate and are expected to support our satellite radio service for several years. In addition, our XM-5 satellite remains available as an in-orbit spare.”

In addition to the SXM-7 satellite, Maxar is currently building the SXM-8 satellite for SiriusXM. The SXM-8 satellite is slated to be launched later this year. It is currently unclear if the failure of SXM-7 will affect the construction or launch of the new satellite.

According to the January 27 SEC filings, the SXM-7 satellite is insured for $225 million. If the satellite is lost, the insurance claim could significantly impact the space insurance market.

Prior to 2018, insurance rates had fallen to their lowest point in three decades with launch vehicles and satellites becoming increasingly reliable. However, with nearly $600 million in insurance claims in 2018, underwriters began to become increasingly concerned that current premium levels were not sufficient to maintain the industry.

With the high profile loss of the UAE’s $415 million Falcon Eye-1 reconnaissance satellite in 2019, and the European SEOSat-Ingenio and TARNIS satellites in 2020, the landscape has not improved.

Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.