Getting a satellite into space is hard – and worrying – work for any broadcaster or operator. When that satellite also has an essential and massive antenna on board, it takes the headache to a new level. And when there’s past evidence that similar giant antennas can prove to be stubborn and not deploy then extra concerns are wholly understandable.
March 3rd saw antenna manufacturers Harris Corporation, along with satellite builder Space Systems/Loral, confirm that all was well with pay-radio’s SiriusXM FM-6 craft, and its 9-metre gold-plated antenna. During the actual launch (which took place back on October 26th) the antenna is kept furled, much like an umbrella. The launch was confirmed as having been successful on December 2nd, and the satellite declared ready for service.
However, for some reason the broadcaster has held back on confirming all was well with the reflector, as the satellite underwent sophisticated tests. These were needed in order to confirm that the antenna’s performance is ‘nominal’ and matches the desired specification.
A similar Harris Corp antenna failed to correctly deploy on the Sirius Mobile project (a j-v between Eutelsat and SES) and carried on board Eutelsat’s W2A craft launched in April 2009. It transpired that the antenna had not correctly unfurled. An insurance claim was filed and in July 2009. At the end of last year the Solaris Mobile business – such as it is – and S-band capacity was sold to Charlie Ergen’s Echostar Corporation.
This latest version for SiriusXM is Harris’s 4th giant antenna for the broadcaster.