A Deeper Look at SIRIUS' New Satellite: SIRIUS FM-5 - Orbitcast

A Deeper Look at SIRIUS' New Satellite: SIRIUS FM-5

SIRIUS FM-5 SatelliteWith Sirius' announcement to introduce a geostationary satellite to their entourage of birds, let's learn a little about this new satellite: SIRIUS FM-5.

According to the SS/L press release, SIRIUS FM-5 is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2008 and will carry an X-band uplink and S-band downlink payload. The satellite will be one of the most powerful ever constructed, with end-of-life power capability at more than 20 kilowatts.

SIRIUS FM-5 is based on SS/L's 1300 platform and will have a specified service life of 15 years. It will carry a range of technologies, including a 9-meter unfurlable reflector, which will allow for highly-concentrated transmissions to small, advanced devices.

Remember that XM's new satellite - XM-5 - will be built by SS/Loral as well. Also as part of SS/Loral's 1300 series, XM-5 will have an end-of-life power capability of over 18 kilowatts and will feature two large, unfurlable mesh antennas. XM-5 is scheduled for completion in 2007 and will be held as a ground spare (XM-4 will be launched later this year).

In SIRIUS Satellite Radio's 10-k filing this year, they had the following to say about augmentation of their satellite constellation:

We expect to augment or replace our satellite constellation by 2012. We may elect to augment our operating satellites with our fourth, spare satellite or with new satellites that we may purchase to meet our business needs. Decisions regarding our satellite constellation may affect the estimated useful life of our existing satellites, and we may modify the depreciable life accordingly.

With 140 terrestrial repeater towers under Sirius' belt, and a "significant number" of repeaters being added this year, it's obvious that Sirius feels that they need more redundancy in its signal. It also definitely seems like Sirius is working to improve reception for portable/wearable receivers. Great news for subscribers (really great), but none of this stuff is free either.

UPDATE: At a recent conference, SIRIUS Satellite Radio's David Frear stated that all satelllites will be replaced by 2012 (as per the 10-k statement above), at one year intervals starting by 2010 (or even sooner). Question is, are they replacing them all with geostationary satellites now?