Ezra’s Round Table / Systems Seminar: Michael Watson (Dynetics)

Engineering Elegant Systems: Engineering at the System Level

Recent advances in systems engineering have emerged leading to a clearer understanding of the basis of the discipline. Systems Engineering has both a physical/logical basis and a sociological basis. Category Theory has provided new directions in understanding the mathematical basis of systems engineering. New modeling approaches have emerged including integrated system physics, system relationships, system state variables, system value, system statistics, and system dynamics. These modeling types provide a clearer understanding of the different perspectives that comprise the engineering of a system both physical/logical and social. This structure has allowed the definition of a set of principles that guide the application of systems engineering processes and modeling. These principles, processes, and modeling types provide the foundation for design and analysis at the system level. The approaches integrate the design and analysis of other engineering and science discipline in a complementary manner to produce an effective, efficient, robust, system that minimized unintended consequences: an elegant system.

Michael D. Watson is the Deputy Systems Engineering and Integration Lead for the Human Landing System (HLS) at Dynetics. He retired from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) as the Advanced Concepts Office Technical Advisor responsible for systems level assessments. He led the NASA Systems Engineering Technical Discipline Team Research and Technology efforts responsible for definition of elegant product focused systems engineering. He led the NASA Systems Engineering Research Consortium defining advanced systems engineering approaches and basis. His work included definition of integrated system physics modeling and analysis of launch vehicles, Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS), aircraft, and lunar surface power systems. He led the development of systems engineering principles indicating the engineering, mathematical, and social basis of systems engineering.

Watson chairs the International Council on Systems Engineering Principles Action Team that updated the systems engineering principles and released them as a publication in August 2022. He has served as the Space Launch System (SLS) Lead Discipline Engineer for Operations Engineering. He started his career with NASA developing International Space Station (ISS) operations capabilities. He also worked to develop remote operations support capabilities for the Spacelab Program in the United States, Europe, and Japan. He subsequently served as Chief of the Optics Branch responsible for the fabrication of large x-ray telescope mirrors, diffractive optics, and telescope systems. He served as Chief of the Integrated Systems Health Management (ISHM) and Sensors Branch and led a NASA team defining Vehicle Management System capabilities for human missions to Mars. His branch work included the definition of ISHM capabilities for the Ares family of launch vehicles. He is the INCOSE Chair of the Complex Systems Working Group. He also served as the Joint Army Navy NASA Air Force (JANNAF) Modeling and Simulation Subcommittee (MSS) chair.

Watson graduated with a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Kentucky in 1987 and obtained his M.S.E. in electrical and computer engineering (1996) and Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering (2005) from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

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