A Decade of Swift


The Swift satellite has been on orbit for ten years. It was the first  project I worked on at Goddard Space Flight Center. I designed and tested the ultra-low-noise power regulator assemblies that run the detector assemblies in the Burst Alert Telescope. I did the circuit design for the variable output high-voltage regulators that provide bias power to the sensors in the BAT detector assemblies. The BAT sensor array is held at a constant temperature (298 K, ± 0.5 K). I designed the pulse-width modulation regulators used in the thermal control system. The same type of PWM is used in the thermal controls for the star trackers which are a part of the satellite’s navigation system. Given that the mission design life was two years, it’s nice to see that my first bits of work are holding up.

Video Credit: NASA

A Mega Flare from a Mini Star


At 2107 UTC on  23 April, the rising tide of X-rays from a superflare on red dwarf DG CVn triggered Swift‘s Burst Alert Telescope (BAT). The satellite turned to observe the source in greater detail with its other instruments and notified astronomers around the globe that a powerful outburst was in progress.

BTW, my principal contribution to the Swift satellite was the design and testing of the ultra-quiet power regulation system for the sensor array in the BAT.

Video Credit: NASA

Too Close for Comfort


Video Credit: NASA

UPDATE—A personal note: I contributed to the design of components of the Burst Alert Telescope instrument on Swift. My contributions include the ultra-quiet power regulators for the detectors in the instrument, the variable high-voltage supply for the detectors, and the pulse-width-modulation regulator for the thermal control system of the BAT. The same PWM regulator was also used in other locations on the satellite.

Comet Siding Spring


Siding SpringThis is a composite of a series of images of Comet Siding Spring taken by the UV Optical Telescope aboard the Swift satellite during the last week of May.

The comet will make a close approach to Mars on 19 October, passing about 138,000 km from the planet. That’s should be close enough that gas and dust in the outermost reaches of the comet’s atmosphere, or coma, will interact with the atmosphere of Mars.

The closest recorded Earth approach by a comet was by the now-defunct comet Lexell. In 1770, it came within 2.3 million km. That’s roughly 6X the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

Image Credit: NASA

Comet Siding Spring


Siding SpringThis is a composite of a series of images of Comet Siding Spring taken by the UV Optical Telescope aboard the Swift satellite during the last week of May.

The comet will make a close approach to Mars on 19 October, passing about 138,000 km from the planet. That’s should be close enough that gas and dust in the outermost reaches of the comet’s atmosphere, or coma, will interact with the atmosphere of Mars.

The closest recorded Earth approach by a comet was by the now-defunct comet Lexell. In 1770, it came within 2.3 million km. That’s roughly 6X the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

Image Credit: NASA