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Space systems engineering employs space systems engineers who are part of the spacecraft program lifecycle from start to finish, including designing, building, testing, and, sometimes, deploying the spacecraft.

Space systems engineers have a technical understanding of all of the subsystems involved in a spacecraft, including the structural and electrical systems, thermal control, power and communication.

In the space systems engineering sector, space systems engineers are often senior engineers with a number of years of experience in the space industry. Space systems engineers also typically have an area of special expertise, such as:

  • Aerostructures
  • Aerodynamics
  • Guidance and control
  • Propulsion
  • Optical systems
  • Thermal systems

Most experts in the field view space systems engineering as a holistic, integrative discipline.

This is considerably different from the contributions of say, structural engineers, electrical engineers, mechanism designers, power engineers, human factors engineers, and many more disciplines are evaluated and balanced, one against another, to produce a coherent whole that is not dominated by the perspective of a single discipline.

Above all else, space systems engineering seeks a safe and balanced design in the face of opposing interests and multiple, sometimes conflicting constraints.

An important aspect of space systems engineering is the development of a concept of operations (ConOps). This is a description of how the systems will be operated during the mission phases in order to meet stakeholder expectations.

A space systems engineering ConOps serves several purposes, such as:

  • Provides an operational perspective
  • Stimulates requirements development related to the user
  • Reveals requirements and design functions as you consider different ways the systems might be used
  • Serves as a basis for key operations documents later

Information that is generally included in a concept of operations includes a description of the major mission phases. For example, for a NASA mission it will include things like contingency or emergency operations, signed state of return, and launch/orbit operations.

Want to learn more? Tonex offers Space Systems Engineering Fundamentals, a 2-day course introducing participants to the fundamental principles of systems engineering applied to development of space systems.

Participants learn about project and systems engineering management, concept definition, stakeholders management, developing ConOps, trade studies, requirements analysis and engineering, system architecture and interface definition, system synthesis, engineering design, integration, verification and validation, operations/sustainability and system retirement (DEMIL).

For more information, questions, comments, contact us.

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