Systems engineering is a multidisciplinary field of study designed to understand and optimize complex systems of any type through the definition and application of formal methods of analysis, administration and coordination of processes. From the point of view of INCOSE, the largest professional network for this field globally, systems engineering is the formal application of requirements gathering, analysis, design, verification and validation of a system in all phases of its life cycle, starting with the definition of the concept and ending with the final of its useful life.
As part of INCOSE, the International Council of the Systems Engineering Technical Standards Committee is responsible for the harmonization of standards used in the application of systems engineering. In the case of the aerospace sector, the collaboration with the ECSS with some resulting standards stands out:
- ECSS-E-10: Requirements and processes, technical and functional specifications, data exchange, etc.
- ISO-IEC 15288: Systems life cycle processes
- Object Management Group (OMG) – SySML, a formal language for the application of modelling-based systems engineering (MBSE)
Concerning aerospace vehicles, being part of the space segment of a mission, the application of systems engineering throughout its life cycle divided by the ECSS-M-ST-10C standard can be summarized in the following concepts:
Phase 0/A – Identification of requirements, possible concepts of operation/architecture and feasibility study and associated risks applying SE or MBSE for the elaboration of the systems engineering plan.
Phase B – Preliminary/final definition of the mission, with the elaboration of the concept of viable operations to represent the components of the mission, their relationships to the other segments (terrain, user, etc.), their requirements and functional architecture. The main roles of the SE/MBSE in these phases are: ensuring traceability between the initially defined requirements and the systems that will meet them, preparing the budgets for different systems, as well as identifying all the activities and resources necessary for the mission development.
Phase C/D – They consist of the final definition of the mission, all the development activity and the preparation of the verification and validation plan. An important role of systems engineering in these phases is to ensure and monitor the application of the requirements in terms of architecture and functions of the defined spacecraft.
Phase E – In this phase, the use of the SE/MBSE occurs in the conception of the operation plans and use of the mission to optimize the fulfilment of the defined objectives as well as the use of the system during its useful life.
Phase F – The implementation of the space debris requirements established by various entities at the international level and the eventual adaptation through SE/MBSE of the standards applicable to this concept.