Broadcast 1618 (Special Edition)

11 Sep 2011 Laurie J. Wiggins
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Guest: Laurie Wiggins. Topics: Systems Engineering for space projects and development. You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright. For more information about our guest, visit her website at In addition, visit the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) website for more specific information on SE at We welcomed Laurie Wiggins back to the show and learned about her new businesses including LJW Enterprise. Ms. Wiggins updated us on her space activities and then jumped right into to a discussion on the importance of systems engineering (SE) across many disciplines, including space projects. Among the early discussion points for SE, we learned that it meets customer needs, looks at the big picture, and has grown substantially in its uses and applications since it was first introduced in the classroom in 1950 at MIT. We also learned that SE is a separate engineering discipline as are the other engineering fields such as mechanical, structural, electrical, and aerospace. Ms. Wiggins was asked about its use in other national space programs and she told us that ESA had a strong SE program as does Russia and other nations as well. We started our second segment asking Ms. Wiggins if a small start up company building rockets or something similar could afford to use SE. Laurie's response was most interesting so don't miss it. Also, she referenced two examples directly related to space, one with the Arianne V back in 1996 and another citing NASA's Lewis Spacecraft failure. Do not miss this discussion. Later in the segment when talking about SE benefits, Ms. Wiggins pointed out that were there a software error, in the early stages using SE it could be fixed for $100 in our example. If the error was not discovered until the test stage, the cost could be $400 to fix it. If the error needs fixing in the operational stage, it could cost upwards of $10K for repair.. For hardware, the ratio is 30:1 and even many times higher if the hardware is in operations when an error is discovered. As we started our final segment, Laurie was asked about SE and the recent Blue Origins failure. While she could not shed any more light on the failure than what has been reported in the news, she did say that she knew SE was in use with the company. As for the future of SE, it is very bright. It is expanding into medical equipment devices and even showing up in student internships and high school classes. Toward the end of the program, I asked Laurie about SE as part of a Power Point rocket project. She suggested we ask penetrating questions to determine if there is substance behind the theoretical rocket or if its vaporware, indicating that one would need to go at least three levels deeper in analysis than what is on the slide to detect a real project. Some of the questions she suggested included asking if there were any wind tunnel tests available with complete data. Another was to ask if a systems requirement review (SRR) was available and if there were any preliminary design milestones identified to date. We also talked about the Space Launch System, the Booz Allen Hamilton cost estimate for the heavy lift launcher of $38 billion and using that money for CCDEV2 companies as a potentially more cost effective option. If you have comments or questions for Laurie Wiggins, post them on the blog URL above. You can also email Laurie through her website at



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