SWAS is in orbit!

SWAS (Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite) is doing very well and is conducting new science observations every day. It was launched December 5 1998 from Vandenburg AFB in California on a Pegasus XL rocket built by Orbital Science Corporation. At that time most of the SWAS team was supporting launch from Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. Participating in the launch was an intense, very emotional experience. Here are some snapshots taken of us in the Goddard operations center during that time.

A group of us clustering around the intercom (squawk box) listening closely during the first launch attempt. What you see in the movies is surprisingly accurate -- NASA launch controllers really do talk like that! We followed them through each step of the launch procedure. At right you can see the L1011 taking off with SWAS slung under its belly.

Ted Bergin awaiting the unfolding of events during the first launch attempt. The carrier aircraft was in the air en route to the launch point (here you see it having just taken off) but launch was eventually scrubbed due to a problem with spacecraft navigational telemetry. Two days later, weather problems (high wind speeds at the launch site) would also abort the second launch attempt.

The third attempt was successful. What a relief! Two days later, after most of the initial orbit checkout procedures were completed, we began our search for the SWAS beam. After a day and a half of hard work, we found it! That was a watershed event, marking the point when SWAS could begin science observations. Zhong Wang offers his congratulations while Steve Kleiner puts the final touches on our observing plans.

Last updated 1999 July 9.