ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Mission and Projects ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Mission and Projects


Main Theme Astrophysics
Mission Responsibility NASA
Launch Date 20 November 2004
End of Mission February 2011
Current phase E2


Swift is a mission in the MIDEX-NASA class dedicated to high-energy astrophysics made in collaboration with Italy and the United Kingdom. Swift is a multi-band observatory that follows up on the experience acquired with the BeppoSAX satellite.  It was launched successfully on 20 November 2004 and is presently in Phase E. All of the on-board instruments are functioning properly and are producing data of excellent scientific quality. Until now Swift has detected more than 300 GRB (gamma ray bursts), thereby contributing significantly to research in this field. Hundreds of scientific articles have been published in journals with referees, including many articles that announce important discoveries in such prestigious journals such as NATURE and SCIENCE.  The scientific excellence of its results was recognized in 2007 with the assignment of the Bruno Rossi prize of the American Astronomical Society to the scientific team of this mission.

Swift is a space observatory that can rapidly and autonomously observe explosive sources such as the Gamma Ray Burst (GRB) and other transient celestial events through the use of its three on-board instruments.  the Burst Alert Telescope (BAT), the X-Ray Telescope (XRT), and the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT).

In-orbit operations are made through the Malindi ground station. Scientific data are sent to the Mission Operation Center situated in Pennsylvania (US) through the ASINeT network. Data are processed at the GSFC (also with software produced in Italy by the ASDC) and are then sent through the Internet to the three data centres of the mission, HEASARC, UKDC and ASDC for archiving and distributing to the general scientific community.


Scientific Objectives
The scientific objectives of Swift are: a) the determination of the origin of the Gamma Ray Burst (GRB) and their use for studying the distant Universe.  b) the realization of a survey of the celestial sphere in 15-100 keV band with the BAT instrument.


Italian Contribution
Italy contributes to the Swift project with the following instruments: a) mirror of the XRT telescope and its calibration, b) the Malindi base and ASI-NET c) scientific software and archive at the ASDC. The Italian scientific team participates very actively in the scientific activity to the mission.


International Agreements
On 25 July 2003 a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between ASI and NASA for cooperation on Swift. Following the success of the mission, the operational life of Swift was extended by NASA for a period of four years. The validity of the MoU between ASI and NASA was consequently extended in 2007.