It was pointed out by Y. Eliashberg in his ICM 2006 plenary talk that the rich algebraic formalism of symplectic field theory leads to a natural appearance of quantum and classical integrable systems, at least in the case when the contact manifold is the prequantization space of a symplectic manifold. In this paper we generalize the definition of gravitational descendants in SFT from circle bundles in the Morse-Bott case to general contact manifolds. After we have shown using the ideas in Okounkov and Pandharipande (Ann Math 163(2):517-560, 2006) that for the basic examples of holomorphic curves in SFT, that is, branched covers of cylinders over closed Reeb orbits, the gravitational descendants have a geometric interpretation in terms of branching conditions, we follow the ideas in Cieliebak and Latschev (http://arixiv.org/abs/0706.3284v2 [math. s6], 2007) to compute the corresponding sequence of Poisson-commuting functions when the contact manifold is the unit cotangent bundle of a Riemannian manifold. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.