NASA Systems Engineering (SE) Handbook (2007)

Keywords NASA SE SE handbook systems engineering

Systems engineering is a methodical, disciplined approach for the design, realization, technical management, operations, and retirement of a system. A “system” is a construct or collection of different elements that together produce results not obtainable by the elements alone. The elements, or parts, can include people, hardware, software, facilities, policies, and documents; that is, all things required to produce system-level results. The results include system-level qualities, properties, characteristics, functions, behavior, and performance. The value added by the system as a whole, beyond that contributed independently by the parts, is primarily created by the relationship among the parts; that is, how they are interconnected.1 It is a way of looking at the “big picture” when making technical decisions. It is a way of achieving stakeholder functional, physical, and operational performance requirements in the intended use environment over the planned life of the systems. In other words, systems engineering is a logical way of thinking.

Systems engineering is the art and science of developing an operable system capable of meeting requirements within often opposed constraints. Systems engineering is a holistic, integrative discipline, wherein the contributions of 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.

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Since the writing of NASA/SP-6105 in 1995, systems engineering at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), within national and international standard bodies, and as a discipline has undergone rapid evolution. Changes include implementing standards in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9000, the use of Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute’s Capability Maturity Model® Integration (CMMI®) to improve development an delivery of products, and the impacts of mission failures. Lesson learned on systems engineering were documented in reports such as those by the NASA Integrated Action Team (NIAT), the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), and the follow-on Diaz Report. Out of these efforts came the NASA Office of the Chief Engineer (OCE) initiative to improve the overall Agency systems engineering infrastructure and capability for the efficient and effective engineering of NASA systems, to produce quality products, and to achieve mission success. In addition, Agency policy and requirements for systems engineering have been established. This handbook update is a part of the OCE-sponsored Agencywide systems engineering initiative.

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