Don’t Forget to Pack the Sun Block

Don’t Forget to Pack the Sun Block

Don't Forget to Pack the Sun Block

Systems Engineering and Integration (SE&I) brings together engineering, technology and human interface teams from concept through production and operation, to create the system that meets user needs. When those user needs involve getting to outer space, the SE&I rigor and complexity intensifies. When we go on vacation and someone forgets to pack sunblock, it’s no big deal; we run out to the local store. When we’re talking about an oversight on a space vehicle, things get a lot more expensive.

Plan Ahead

The cost to launch and operate satellites for any mission is extraordinary, compared to terrestrial systems. Applied in the space domain, SE&I ensures that the thousands of parts and interfaces required for a satellite or launch vehicle can successfully attain orbit, withstand the space environment and operate with ground and other space systems. In space, there is limited opportunity for repairing a failed system – the risks and solutions must be identified and solved prior to launch.

Our customers seek to better understand earth and space, or they apply space-based information and services to ensure national security interests. We help our customers make sure their system is designed, launched and operated successfully. Disciplined, up-front systems engineering is absolutely essential to identifying and controlling risk from the beginning of any program or development effort.

One Size does not fit all

One Size Does Not Fit All

Although defined processes and methods are used in SE&I, each system is different. A unique and challenging aspect of SE&I is determining how to modify previous approaches to best meet the needs of the specific system and user. SE&I is different than advisory services or technical assistance. SE&I is a partnership between the government and the SE&I team, with the developer, to rigorously guide system design, procurement and operations. The independent SE&I contractor works as a trusted partner with government program managers to develop the elements that are essential to a successful program.

We tailor systems engineering processes to every effort we support to ensure we provide “right-sized” SE&I support based on a detailed understanding of program directives, requirements and system engineering practices. Our engineers tailor the processes and streamline the milestones to match the level of complexity and risk in the acquisition to minimize the system engineering burden on the acquisition while still maintaining adequate oversight.

Getting it Right

Getting all the parts to work as designed, adapting to changes in the operation of the system and providing interfaces to other space and earth-bound systems are not for the faint of heart. I get to work with the smartest people solving the most difficult problems known. We identify ways to do a job more efficiently or less-expensively – or – identify and develop new approaches, technologies or methods to solve problems thought unsolvable. High-quality, independent SE&I processes by our team have contributed to the successful missions of the Space Development and Test Wing, the Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Space Command, the Intelligence Community and the National Aeronautics and Space Agency. For NASA, we’ve had the privilege of working on the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), which is pictured at the top of this blog.

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Posted by Dave Mettenburg

I hold degrees in mechanical engineering and space operations. I have served in the U.S. Air Force and have been conducting systems engineering for Engility (and its predecessor organizations) for the past 20 years.