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AE 424 Aerospace Systems Engineering

Vctor Cmara
Facultad de Ingeniera
Universidad Autnoma de Chihuahua

This lecture was developed based on the NASA systems engineering course

AE 424 Aerospace Systems Engineering - Introduction

Definition of System:

A system is a set of interacting or interdependent components

working together toward some common objective or purpose.
A system is composed of components, attributes, and relationships defined as:
a) Components are the operating parts of a system consisting of input,
process, and output.
b) Attributes are properties of a system, which characterize the system.
c) Relationships are the links between components and attributes.
A group of components of a system can themselves be another system
which is usually called subsystem. Each system can be a part or subsystem
of a larger system.
A system and its components can be physical or nonphysical (e.g., software
system, policy system).

AE 424 Aerospace Systems Engineering - Introduction

Classification of Systems:

Natural systems: solar system, river system, human body, food chain, etc.
Man-made systems: space station, satellite, aircraft, internet, banking system,
Physical systems: a satellite, a vehicle, a railway system, etc.
Conceptual systems: a urban plan, an operating system, a language system, etc.
Static systems: having system structure but without activity such as a highway
Dynamic systems: having system structure with activities such as a traffic system.
Open systems: allows information, energy, and matter to cross its boundaries
such as business organizations and animals.
Closed systems: do not interact significantly with their environments such as
highway systems.

Both the open and closed systems exhibit the property of entropy which is a degree of
disorganization in a system. A decrease in entropy occurs as order occurs. Human-made
systems are mostly intended to decrease entropy creation of more orderly states from
less orderly states.
An example of exceptions is a weapon.

AE 424 Aerospace Systems Engineering - Introduction

Systems Thinkers
See the whole picture
See the forest and the trees
View from different perspectives
Look for interdependencies
Understand different models
Think long term
Go wide in thinking about cause and effect
Think about potential benefits (opportunities) as well
as about unintended consequences (risks)

Focus on problem solving, not finding blame

AE 424 Aerospace Systems Engineering - Introduction

Systems Thinking Why is it Important?

To understand and manage the

requirements, and to develop the solution,
we have to understand how it fits into the
larger system of which it is a part.

To get the ability to divide Complex

Systems into less complicated subsystems

AE 424 Aerospace Systems Engineering Introduction


Complexity calls for:

Division of labor
Division of knowledge (multidisciplinary projects)

Systems Thinking Why is it Important?

Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.
Albert Einstein

Never forget that the system being

addressed by one group of engineers is
the subsystem of another group and
the super-system of yet a third group.*
* Dennis M. Buede, The Engineering Design of Systems, 2000, John
Wiley & Sons.

As systems engineers, we must

consider products above, peer
products, and subordinate products.

AE 424 Aerospace Systems Engineering - Introduction

Example of an Aerospace System

Space Shuttle

AE 424 Aerospace Systems Engineering - Introduction

Shuttle and launch vehicle

Example of a System of Systems

A satellite with three enabling systems

Satellite of



Launch Vehicle
Enabling System

AE 424 Aerospace Systems Engineering - Introduction


Original Reasons for Systems Engineering

Systems of pieces built by different
subsystem groups did not perform
as expected
Often broke at the interfaces
Problems emerged and desired properties were not
realized when subsystems designed independently
were integrated

Managers and chief engineers tended to pay

attention ONLY to areas in which they were skilled
Developed systems were not usable

Cost overruns, schedule delays,

Performance problems

AE 424 Aerospace Systems Engineering - Introduction


What Does Systems Thinking Involve?

1. Understanding the system
requirements regardless of the
position of ones product in the
system decomposition hierarchy

2. Assessing the impact of system

requirements on the subsystem
for which one is responsible
3. Assessing the impact of subsystem
constraints on the system

4. Assessing the impact of the

subsystems requirements on lower
level products before selecting a
subsystem concept

AE 424 Aerospace Systems Engineering - Introduction


More and Better Systems Engineers

Trends in the development and design of new
aerospace systems require more systems

Large aerospace projects struggle with cost,

schedule and technical performance.

Demographics - aging workforce and skill retention.

New aerospace systems are larger and/or more

complex - requiring a higher percentage of systems

AE 424 Aerospace Systems Engineering - Introduction


Response to Trends in the Design and Development

of New Aerospace Systems

New aerospace systems are more likely to have:

Technology development
A variety of subsystem technical maturities
Consider and reuse existing designs
Consider and incorporate COTS subsystems or components

Mandated implementations or subsystem vendors

Greater dependence on system models for design decisions
More stakeholders and institutional partners
More customer oversight and non-advocate review
System-of-systems requirements
More people - project sizes are growing
Physically distributed design and manufacturing teams

AE 424 Aerospace Systems Engineering - Introduction


NASA and Industry Call For More and Better

Systems Engineers

All of the factors identified by NASA that contributed to

program failure and significant cost overrun are systems
engineering factors, e.g.,
1) Inadequate requirements management
2) Poor systems engineering processes
3) Inadequate heritage design analyses in early phases
4) Inadequate systems-level risk management

Reference: NASA, Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation, Systems Engineering and Institutional
Transitions Study, April 5, 2006. Reproduced in National Academies book - Building a Better NASA
Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration.

AE 424 Aerospace Systems Engineering - Introduction