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Towards More Effective Teaching Strategies of Iteration and Systems Management in Spacecraft Design

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Aerospace Teaching and Learning I

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1537.1 - 22.1537.20



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Paper Authors


Hadi Ali Purdue University

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Hadi Ali is a Ph.D. student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He holds a B.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue University and a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Jordan. He earned his Masters degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue University majoring in aerospace systems design. He is also pursuing a Masters degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue. Hadi is a student member of AIAA, IEEE, ASME, and SAE.

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Robin Adams Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Robin S. Adams is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She led the Institute for Scholarship on Engineering Education (ISEE) as part of the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE). Dr. Adams received her Ph.D. in Education, Leadership, and Policy Studies from the University of Washington, an M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Washington, and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Dr. Adams’ research is concentrated in four interconnecting areas: cross-disciplinary thinking, acting, and being; design cognition and learning; views on the nature of engineering knowledge; and theories of change in linking engineering education research and practice.

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Towards a More Accurate Framework to Predict Cost and Schedule in Space Vehicle Development Projects – Insight from the Apollo Lunar Module Systems thinking is an important aspect in the development of space vehicles and spacesystems because of the responsibility that the space systems engineer has to define a systembased on requirements and constraints and to oversee its creation from a variety of technologiesand subsystems. In particular, the ability to accurately predict the cost and schedule of thedevelopment of a space vehicle is of major importance to project managers. This paperinvestigates one aspect of systems thinking that focuses on the interaction between designiterations and budget (cost and schedule) iterations that occur in the process of developingspacecraft. This interaction of these two different iteration processes is very interesting as itrepresents two different learning phenomena that are taking place. This paper studies specificallythe Apollo Lunar Module (LM) as an interesting example of building a manned space vehiclewith no similar precedent. The goal is to identify trends that occur in the highly iterative processof designing spacecraft by looking at possible relationships between the profile of vehicleconfiguration changes, and, consequently, impacts on cost and schedule predictions. Using thework of Stephen Johnson in his book The Secret of Apollo: Systems Management in Americanand European Space Programs, we build on his definition of systems management that stemsfrom the interaction between three social groups; the engineers (seeking dependability), thescientists (seeking novelty), and the managers (seeking predictability of the cost and schedulebudgets). Following a narrative research design, the book Moon Lander: How We Developed theApollo Lunar Module by Tom Kelly, the father of the LM, will be the data for this research. Thepaper is organized in four sections. The first section describes the development of systemsengineering practices early in the Apollo space program and illustrates a need for projectmanagers to better estimate cost and schedule without prior history of development of vehicles ofsimilar kind. Here, the effect of social interactions is emphasized in addition to a discussion onthe presence, or absence, of awareness of the role of iteration in the design process. The secondsection analyzes the work of Tom Kelly using a narrative research design. The third sectionpresents findings as a framework that suggests a relationship between modifications ofconfigurations of space vehicles and the consequences on predicting cost and schedule. Finally,in the fourth section, we try to generalize this framework for current practices in space systemsengineering where prior history of similar developments do exist.

Ali, H., & Adams, R. (2011, June), Towards More Effective Teaching Strategies of Iteration and Systems Management in Spacecraft Design Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18344

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