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Notes to read prior to using the course materials contained on this website.

  1. In the ‘Lectures’ folder, there are 27 topical modules included in version 1.0 of the Space Systems Engineering course. Some modules, if lectured in full, would take more than one class period to cover the material. In particular, the following modules are rather lengthy: cost, risk, and verification. Of course the contents can also be trimmed to fit within a single lecture period. Tailoring is recommended based upon what you want to emphasize. Note that the module structure was employed so that certain topics (modules) could be inserted into existing classes if desired (rather than teaching the entire systems engineering course).
  2. For the pilot, class periods were also devoted to the following (as documented in the syllabus):
    1. Group presentations of group assignments
    2. Opportunity to watch one of the Gentry Lee videos
    3. Guest lecture from NASA Johnson Space Center, Constellation Program Office
    4. Mid-term exam (in-class)
    5. Course evaluation (last class period)
  3. The sequence of the lecture modules follows from the teaching of the pilot class. However, you may want to make adjustments for reordering. Important topics, such as project life cycle, may need refreshing when the topic of technical reviews is discussed, for example. In fact, you may want to move technical reviews to follow the project life cycle module.
  4. Each module contains an introductory purpose slide and a summary slide at the end. Most of the modules include material placed in backup. Some of the backup slides may be of interest for the body of the lecture or just for additional reference. Many of the individual slides have notes included in the notes page section. These notes further expand on the information for that slide, and provide definitions for abbreviations or particular aerospace terms.
  5. There are a number of articles or documents included with many of the lecture modules. You can use these as additional resources for the course materials. Many of the articles are intended for the students to read, and then participate in class discussions. The articles for that topic are contained in the corresponding module folder. However, the reading assignment would need to be made in the prior class period.
  6. Many of the modules include a slide labeled ‘Pause and Learn Opportunity’. These are intended as a break from the lecture to give the students an opportunity to discuss an example concept or a particular reading (as mentioned in 4 above). If the class cannot afford discussion time, then these slides can be moved to backup, or even used for student assignments.
  7. A folder labeled ‘Additional Readings’ (5.) provides articles related to systems engineering that may be useful for further class assignments or reflection. The folder labeled ‘Additional Resources’ (6.) contains a document highlighting a variety of websites, many NASA related, that are applicable to systems engineering. A summary of each of the websites is provided.
  8. In the overview module, two semester-long assignments are presented. One is reading a book related to systems engineering and writing a paper addressing specific questions. The other assignment is similar, but the reading is a mission failure report (see the folder labeled ‘Failure Reports’ (4.)). Note that the book assignment was used in the pilot course.
  9. For the pilot class, a guest lecturer taught a primer in probability and statistics. This course was not required of the undergraduate aerospace engineers at UT-Austin, yet many of the SE topics rely on concepts of probability. A separate lecture on Monte Carlo simulation was also taught. These two lectures are not included in this CD.
  10. The folder ‘Reference Documents’ (2.) contains handbooks from NASA, DAU, and SMC. There is also a NASA systems engineering toolbox document — a great resource for various analytical tools. This folder also contains the NASA Procedural Requirements document (NPR 7123.1A) for NASA Systems Engineering Processes and Requirements. This document guides the current NASA SE Handbook.

The following table maps the lecture module to the corresponding section in three of the included SE handbooks. This is useful for the students as a reference for further instruction on a topic, particularly since there is no assigned textbook.



DAU SE Fundamentals

NASA SE Handbook 1995

NASA SE Handbook 2007

1. Course Overview




2. Introduction: What is Systems Engineering?

Chap 3

Sec 1 & 2

Sec 2.0

3. Teamwork

Chap 18

Sec 3.7.2

Sec 7.2

4. Project Life Cycle

Chap 2

Sec 3

Sec 3

5. Scoping and ConOps

Chap 2 supp.


Sec 4.1

6. System Architecture

Chap 8


Sec 4.3

7. System Hierarchy and WBS

Chap 9

Sec 4.3

Appendix B.2


8. Analytical Hierarchy Process


Sec 5.1.3


9. Requirements – the basics

Chap 4


Sec 4.2

10. Requirements – writing requirements



Sec 4.2

Appendix C

11. Requirements – configuration & change management

Chap 8

Chap 10

Sec 4.7

Sec 6.2; 6.5

Appendix M

12. Functional Analysis

Chap 5; 5-A

Appendix B.7

Sec 4.3

Appendix F

13. System Synthesis



Sec 5.2

14. Design Fundamentals

Chap 6


Sec 4.4.1

Sec 5.1.2

15. Interfaces

Sec 10.3

Appendix B.7.2

Sec 5.2.2

Sec 6.3

Append F, H & L

16. Margins


Sec 4.9.2

Sec 6.0

17. Technical Performance Measures (TPMs)

Chap 14

Sec 14-A

Sec 4.9.2


Appendix G

18. Cost


Sec 5.2

Sec 2.5

19. Risk

Chap 15

Sec 15-B

Sec 4.6

Appendix B.4

Sec 6.4

20. Technology & TRLs

Sec 2-A



21. Trade studies

Chap 12

Sec 5.1


Appendix O

22. Reliability


Sec 6.2


23. Verification

Chap 7

Sec 6.6

Appendix B.9

Sec 5.3

Sec 5.4

Appendix D, E & I

24. Technical Reviews Module

Chap 11

Sec 4.8

Sec 6.7

Appendix N

25. Schedule

Sec 16-A

Sec 4.4


26. Management


Sec 4

Sec 6.1

27. Ethics





Note that a class period was devoted to ethics since the UT-Austin Department of Aerospace Engineering does not devote a course to ethics. Rather the various classes are required to address the topic within their syllabus.



There are 10 homework assignments contained in the ‘SE Homework & Exams’ folder (3.). The assignments varied from individual to group (note: groups were pre-assigned).

Most of the group assignments were presented during class, in order to provide the students the opportunity to brief their analysis and views. Each homework folder includes: 1) the assignments documented in a .doc file; 2) supporting material; and 3) examples of student work products from the pilot class. Usually homework was assigned the week the topic was being taught with one week to complete.

· Homework #5 is related to the Taguchi Method. The lecture associated with this technique is contained on the CD as a back-up lecture on robust design, under folder 13. System Synthesis.

· Homework #7 for the pilot class used the Aerospace Corporation’s Small Satellite Cost Model. Permission was not allowed to distribute that model with this curriculum. Alternative assignments related to cost can be made using other available cost models. A resource is the following website: Also, cost models are available in the Space Mission Analysis and Design (SMAD) textbook series.

· Homework #8/part 1 related to Risk and Exploration and Homework #10 on ethics involved students writing their views of the topic at hand. Example assignment products are not included in these homework folders on the CD.


Two exams were issued for the pilot class. The blank version and a solutions version are contained in the folder SE Homework & Exams. The first exam was the mid-term, taken in-class during a 60-minute period. The second exam was the final, taken during a 3-hour period (all the students finished within 2 hours).

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