Systems engineering as a discipline has been established for many years, being utilised to good effect most notably, in the defence industry. Its introduction in a formalised way to the UK ATC is relatively recent. Although a good start has been made in embedding the process within the lifecycle model, much work is still required to refine the systems engineering elements to cope with the complex (internationally collaborative) business model, the need to nurture creativity in the design process and the translation into a highly challenging cost-driven technology domain.
This paper explores the current status of systems engineering at the UK ATC, shows where further work is needed, and how improvements can be made to meet the challenges of next generation telescopes and instrumentation.
It is shown why the discipline is necessary, especially given that projects often comprise diverse global teams (both small and large), and it indicates the pitfalls of a tendency in the early stages of a project to focus on solutions rather than robust requirements capture.
Finally, despite the obvious value and yet often ill-understood rigours of system engineering, it is shown how innovation and creativity can be promoted rather than stifled.