Orbital Congratulates NASAs Swift Astrophysics Satellite Team On 10-Year In-Orbit Anniversary

Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, congratulates NASA and the Swift satellite team on the recent 10th anniversary of the astrophysics spacecraft’s launch and successful operation. Originally intended for a two-year mission life, Swift continues to exhibit excellent performance a decade after its launch, during which time it has become one of the most renowned space-based observatories for gamma-ray burst (GRB) detection. The Swift spacecraft was designed, built and tested at Orbital’s Gilbert, AZ, facility, which has produced numerous other scientific spacecraft for NASA, such as the Fermi astrophysics satellite that was launched in 2008 to work in conjunction with Swift and the Landsat 8 Earth imaging satellite that was launched in 2013.

Swift is the only scientific satellite capable of rapidly detecting GRBs, the universe’s most powerful explosions. It has observed over 920 of these ultra-high energy events over the course of 10 years of operations. During its mission, the Orbital-built Swift has made 315,000 individual observations of 26,000 separate targets, supporting nearly 6,200 “target of opportunity” requests by more than 1,500 scientists. The satellite has captured a magnetar explosion; watched a neutron star be torn apart by a black hole; observed hundreds of galaxies, exploding stars, asteroids, comets; and detected the most luminous event ever witnessed by humans, designated GRB 080319B, in 2008.

“Named after the acrobatic bird that performs amazing in-flight maneuvers, the Swift satellite deftly slews to detect very quick bursts of enormous cosmic energy,” said Mr. Mike Miller, Orbital’s Senior Vice President of Science and Environmental Satellite Programs. “Upon detection of these high-energy events, other ground- and space-based telescopes receive their galactic coordinates from Swift to allow them to capture the rapidly fading afterglow caused by the initial explosions. Scientists can then observe and learn from these events that can dwarf the Sun’s entire energy output over its multi-billion year lifetime.”

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Swift was designed and built to detect GRBs in gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet and optical light. Prior to the Swift mission, little was known about GRBs due to their very short duration. The program’s Mission Operations Center at Pennsylvania State University continues to receive valuable data from the satellite and share it with the global astrophysics community.

Source: Orbital Sciences Corporation
Date: Nov 25, 2014