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"The testers are providing feedback as we put our system through its paces in preparation for a commercial launch later this summer."
——XM President and CEO Hugh Panero
XM SATELLITES IN ORBIT DESPITE "SOFT LAUNCH"
With Launches Complete, The Launch Begins…Not Affiliated With Launch
One of two soon-to-launch satellite radio companies has begun a "nationwide soft launch program" this week, sending men in white coats to 20 markets in order to assess whether their system will work as intended.

XM Satellite Radio says its testing program is "the first step in a multi-staged XM launch preparedness effort." XM, like rival Sirius Satellite Radio, intends to establish itself as an alternative to traditional radio by broadcasting hundreds of channels of CD-quality signal from orbiting satellites. The two companies are the only ones licensed by the FCC to do so.

And by the way, all the talk about a "soft launch" and "launch preparedness" refers to the XM service, not the satellites themselves. Hey, they had to explain it to us, so we figured we’d pass along the knowledge.

"The testers are providing feedback as we put our system through its paces in preparation for a commercial launch later this summer," said XM President and CEO Hugh Panero.

Again, just to be clear, XM’s two satellites, "Rock" and "Roll," are already in orbit, but the company’s subscription service, which will cost about $10 a month, will "launch" in the coming months.

Interestingly, XM attempted to launch "Roll" first earlier this year, but the launch was scrubbed due to inclement weather. Due to stresses placed on the satellite during the aborted launch, the company was forced to give "Roll" a rest and launch "Rock" first. The gods apparently were then satisfied, and once Rock was safely in orbit, "Roll" was finally able to get off the ground without a hitch.

XM recently won several awards at the International Consumer Electronics Show, including "Best of CES" in the automotive category. General Motors has been building XM-capable radios into its cars this year, and consumer electronics manufacturers including Sony and Panasonic are making aftermarket units. We’re not sure what "aftermarket" means, but we thought we’d better throw it in there anyway.

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