Maxar Technologies built the SiriusXM satellite, SXM-7, to provide broadcasting service for 15 years or more. In orbit, the satellite was designed to deploy a large unfurlable antenna reflector to enable broadcasts to mobile radios. Credit: Maxar Technologies

SAN FRANCISCO – SiriusXM and Maxar Technologies revealed problems with SXM-7, a SiriusXM communications satellite launched in December, in Jan. 27 filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“During in-orbit testing of SXM-7, events occurred which have caused failures of certain SXM-7 payload units,” SiriusXM said in a Jan. 27 report. “An evaluation of SXM-7 is underway. The full extent of the damage to SXM-7 is not yet known.”

Maxar built the nearly 7,000-kilogram communications satellite to provide broadcasting to mobile radios for 15 year or more. SpaceX launched SXM-7 to geostationary orbit Dec. 13 on a Falcon 9 rocket.

“The SXM-7 issue will have no adverse effect on the operation of our satellite radio service nor on our existing fleet of operating satellites,” a SiriusXM spokesman said by email. “SXM-7 was intended to supplement the existing fleet of SiriusXM satellites. Our XM-3 and XM-4 satellites are healthy and fully operational, and are expected to support our satellite radio service for several years.”

SiriusXM also operates the XM-5 satellite, an in-orbit spare designed to supplement the existing fleet.

Maxar is currently building another SiriusXM satellite, SXM-8, which is scheduled for launch in 2021.

The problem with SXM-7 is likely to have a significant impact on the space insurance market, a satellite insurer said. The satellite was insured for $225 million, SiriusXM said in its SEC filing.

The risk was spread among approximately 20 insurers, according to the insurer. SiriusXM said in its SEC filing that it “notified the underwriters of these policies of a potential claim with respect to SXM-7.”

Maxar said in its filing, “We are currently assisting Sirius XM in troubleshooting and diagnosing the situation to evaluate the extent of the damage to the SXM-7 satellite and to focus on safely completing the commissioning of the satellite and optimizing its performance.”

As is common in the satellite industry, Maxar’s contract with Sirius XM transferred the risk of loss to the satellite owner upon launch.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...