The design of remote sensing systems is driven by the need to provide cost-effective, substantive answers to questions posed by our customers. This is especially important for space-based systems, which tend to be expensive, and which generally cannot be changed after they are launched. We report here on the approach we employed in developing the desired attributes of a satellite mission, namely the Multispectral Thermal Imager. After an initial scoping study, we applied a procedure which we call: `End-to-end modeling and analysis (EEM).' We began with target attributes, translated to observable signatures and then propagated the signatures through the atmosphere to the sensor location. We modeled the sensor attributes to yield a simulated data stream, which was then analyzed to retrieve information about the original target. The retrieved signature was then compared to the original to obtain a figure of merit: hence the term `end-to-end modeling and analysis.' We base the EEM in physics to ensure high fidelity and to permit scaling. As the actual design of the payload evolves, and as real hardware is tested, we can update the EEM to facilitate trade studies, and to judge, for example, whether components that deviate from specifications are acceptable.