Elegant space systems: How do we get there?

Alejandro Salado, Roshanak Nilchiani

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations


Can the space industry produce elegant systems? If so, how? Space systems development has become process-centric, e.g., process creation or modification is the default response to most development and/or operations challenges when problems are encountered. But is that really effective? An increasing number of researchers and practitioners disagree with such an approach and suggest that elegance is as important to a system and its operation as fulfillment of technical and contractual requirements; consequently they are proposing a review and refreshment of the systems engineering practice. Elegance is generally recognizable, but hard to achieve deterministically. The research community has begun an endeavor to define what elegance is in systems engineering terms, find ways to measure or at least characterize it, and create or adapt philosophies and methodologies that promote elegance as a design objective (driver?). This paper asserts that while elegance cannot be engineered in a traditional sense, it can emerge as a natural result of design activity. This needs to be enabled and can be facilitated, but ultimately depends on the talent of the design teams as individuals and as a group. This paper summarizes existing technical definitions of elegance and discusses a) how it can be pursued and b) cultural conditions and habits that help elegance emerge during the development and operation of a space system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2013 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2013
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes
Event2013 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2013 - Big Sky, MT, United States
Duration: Mar 2 2013Mar 9 2013

Publication series

NameIEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)1095-323X


Other2013 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2013
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBig Sky, MT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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