Published in the January 12, 2017 edition


NORTH READING – A North Reading resident has taken a lifelong interest in rocketry and outer space and found a unique niche for himself in the world of photography.

Peter Zawistowski photographs satellite launches for SAT Magazine, a publication covering the satellite industry, and its website, SAT Mag. Zawistowski reports he has been with the company for a fairly short time and also does some video and writing work for them.

For his latest project, Zawistowski was at Cape Canaveral for the launch of the U.S. GOES-R weather satellite. His wife works for the company that built the satellite and the two traveled together to view its launch. However, there were three separate launch delays for the satellite in the ensuing weeks, which finally launched in late November instead of its original October date. “You’d better have a wide open schedule, let’s put it that way,” laughed Zawistowski, adding that once the launch does actually happen however, “it’s fast!”

For the photo accompanying this article, Zawistowski said that he didn’t have any particularly special equipment – just a fairly small commercial grade Nikon camera (with a maxed out zoom lens), he added. The photo was taken 2 ½ miles from the launch point. This was Zawistowski’s first time shooting at Cape Canaveral, although he has worked in other places around the country. Making this launch even more memorable, Zawistowski recalled how it had taken place at night – the first such one he had seen. Launches are typically held during the day to allow easier optical tracking by the technicians, he added. At some point in the future, Zawistowski also wants to shoot at Wallops Island, Virginia, where a number of space launch fly-bys can be viewed.

Zawistowski’s interest in space and rockets began when he watched the moon landing on TV as a 15-year-old. He described that transformative event as “absolutely fascinating” and amazing piece of history that so many people at the time had watched. From there, he started watching space launches on TV whenever he had the opportunity. While attending college in Boston, the Western Mass. native studied video and went on to be self-employed in that field.

The journey to photographing satellite launches has “probably been a great collection of steps – or missteps,” joked Zawistowski. In the mid-1990s, he had the opportunity to film a Space Shuttle launch, and, working for ABC News, was able to cover a few more. His role at that point was to get the video signal via a transmission pack from Kennedy Center back to the TV networks. In general, Zawistowski describes himself as a longtime “rockethead” who even enjoys reading about the field in his spare time. The field that Zawistowski works in is predictably tight knit and fairly small. For example, he works occasionally with a colleague who is with an online weather service.

After years of working in a field that has been a lifelong interest, Zawistowski reminds others to “dream big.”

“Who thought I’d be working with Cape Canaveral?” he added.