How SiriusXM satellite radio works

(May 16, 2019) ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — There’s a new infographic for those who have wondered just how SiriusXM transmits all those stations to our cars. The team at VAIS Technology put together this chart to illustrate how satellite radio actually works.

Broken down into steps, the graphic depicts the simple-but-not-so-simple process that happens when a driver tunes in to a SiriusXM station.

Here’s how the graphic breaks down:

   • On March 21, 2001, XM launched some parallel geostationary orbit satellites, which means the satellites are in an orbit parallel to the equator and follow the earth’s rotation in the same 24-hour period. Sirius Satellite Radio was formed four months later. XM and Sirius merged on Nov. 12, 2008.

    • The satellites are positioned in such a way that there’s a satellite above the continental United States at all times.

    • Based in Washington, D.C., SiriusXM’s manned ground stations send signals to the satellites and monitor satellite movement, troubleshoot any issues, and ensure the overall operations are running smooth.

    • Using a small antenna, a car’s receiver picks up the signal bounced from the satellites, decodes the data stream in the signal, and converts it into over 170 channels.