The application of systems engineering to a Space-based Solar Power Technology Demonstration Mission

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2012-05

Authors

Chemouni Bach, Julien

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Abstract

This thesis presents an end-to-end example of systems engineering through the development of a Space-based Solar Power Satellite (SSPS) technology demonstration mission. As part of a higher education effort by NASA to promote systems engineering in the undergraduate classroom, the purpose of this thesis is to provide an educational resource for faculty and students. NASA systems engineering processes are tailored and applied to the development of a conceptual mission in order to demonstrate the role of systems engineering in the definition of an aerospace mission. The motivation for choosing the SSPS concept is two fold. First, as a renewable energy concept, space-based solar power is a relevant topic in today's world. Second, previous SSPS studies have been largely focused on developing full-scale concepts and lack a formalized systems engineering approach. The development of an SSPS technology demonstration mission allows for an emphasis on determining mission, and overall concept, feasibility in terms of technical needs and risks. These are assessed through a formalized systems engineering approach that is defined as an early concept or feasibility study, typical of Pre-Phase A activities. An architecture is developed from a mission scope, involving the following trade studies: power beam type, power beam frequency, transmitter type, solar array, and satellite orbit. Then, a system hierarchy, interfaces, and requirements are constructed, and cost and risk analysis are performed. The results indicate that the SSPS concept is still technologically immature and further concept studies and analyses are required before it can be implemented even at the technology demonstration level. This effort should be largely focused on raising the technological maturity of some key systems, including structure, deployment mechanisms, power management and distribution, and thermal systems. These results, and the process of reaching them, thus demonstrate the importance and value of systems engineering in determining mission feasibility early on in the project lifecycle.

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