The job of a space systems engineer is not all that dissimilar from what a general systems engineer does — looks across multiple disciplines (computers & software, electronics, power, thermal, structural) to be able to design systems that perform the intended function reliably, for a reasonable cost.
Engineering is engineering, right answers are right answers, but in space systems, the environment (vacuum, temperature extremes, radiation, launch vibration, acceleration, hypersonic ascent and entry) generates a lot of constraints that make the engineering solutions appear unusual compared to most other industries.
For example, space systems engineers argue over fractions of a watt or a few degrees of temperature or a few grams of mass, because power and cooling and launch payload are precious resources.
They also tend to work with exotic, expensive materials because space system machines must survive extreme vibration and wide temperature variations, but weigh as little as possible.
Also, the rules for space systems are somewhat unusual because the environment is unusual, compared to most other engineering jobs.
A space system is a system of systems, consisting of many elements. It includes not only a launch vehicle and satellites but also ground segments such as the various ground facilities and installations.
The mission success relies on the workings of the system as a whole, not on the discrete functions of its elements.
A space system engineer undergoes education in various engineering aspects related to space. The education should cover everything from satellites, launchers and ground stations to orbital mechanics and also involves the mission planning.
For satellites, a space engineer needs to understand the entire subsystems of the satellite such as Propulsion, thermal, Onboard Data handling, Attitude Control Systems, power and structure. And in case of the launchers, this education should cover structure, guidance of the launcher, staging and orbital mechanics. Apart from this, it also gives a diverse knowledge of Space Communication, Space Environments, Satellite Architecture, Human Factors and Space legal aspects.
A space system engineer will first have diverse knowledge on how things work in space and then he/she chooses their field of interest to pursue their job and continue to have expertise in the chosen field.
Want to learn more? Tonex offers Space Systems Engineering Fundamentals, a 2-day course that introduces participants to the fundamental principles of systems engineering applied to development of space systems.
Our Space Operations and Cybersecurity courses also include:
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