A Day In the Life Of a NASA Satellite Team

with Regina Caputo, Observatory Project Scientist


Regina Caputo: So, Swift is an observatory, and it was launched about 15 years ago, and it's designed to study gamma-ray bursts, which are the most powerful explosions in the universe.


Our day starts out like pretty much anyone else's. We get up, have some breakfast, go to work, and get ready to do the daily planning telecon. That's where we decide all the things that Swift is gonna look at that day.


After we decide what Swift is gonna look at, we send up that schedule to the satellite, uh, via ground stations, which are located all around the world. Swift will look at all of these various targets that we sent up--sometimes 50 to 100 per day.


But then, something could happen--maybe it's a supernova, and then a ground-based telescope sees it. This observatory might want Swift to take a look to see what they can see, so they'll put in a request.


When this happens, we get--the Swift team gets emails and pages--or texts, I guess texts, 'cause nobody gets pages anymore. Anyway, this case is evaluated against what we decided on earlier in the day, As well as other requests that people want us to observe. These also come from all around the world.


If we decide to approve this request, um, what'll happen is we will send that information up to the satellite via the TDRS network, and this is a network of satellites, uh, orbiting all around,

which allow us to talk to Swift at any time.


Once Swift has looked at this new target, um, and the data was sent down to the ground, Swift will go back to doing what it was doing before, uh, perhaps following up on a gamma-ray burst in the afternoon.


At the end of the day...hmm. So, there isn't really an end of the day for Swift--it's always observing different targets that we've put into the schedule.


Um, but for the rest of us humans, we have an end of the day just like anybody else--uh, go home, go to bed, and think about the exciting day that we'll have tomorrow.

ON-SCREEN TEXT: Explore Solar System & Beyond