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SEH 1.0 Introduction

Updated Feb 6, 2019

1.1 Purpose

This handbook is intended to provide general guidance and information on systems engineering that will be useful to the NASA community. It provides a generic description of Systems Engineering (SE) as it should be applied throughout NASA. A goal of the handbook is to increase awareness and consistency across the Agency and advance the practice of SE. This handbook provides perspectives relevant to NASA and data particular to NASA.

This handbook should be used as a companion for implementing NPR 7123.1, Systems Engineering Processes and Requirements, as well as the Center-specific handbooks and directives developed for implementing systems engineering at NASA. It provides a companion reference book for the various systems engineering-related training being offered under NASA’s auspices.

1.2 Scope and Depth

This handbook describes systems engineering best practices that should be incorporated in the development and implementation of large and small NASA programs and projects. The engineering of NASA systems requires a systematic and disciplined set of processes that are applied recursively and iteratively for the design, development, operation, maintenance, and closeout of systems throughout the life cycle of the programs and projects. The scope of this handbook includes systems engineering functions regardless of whether they are performed by a manager or an engineer, in-house or by a contractor.

There are many Center-specific handbooks and directives as well as textbooks that can be consulted for in-depth tutorials. For guidance on systems engineering for information technology projects, refer to Office of Chief Information Officer Information Technology Systems Engineering Handbook Version 2.0. For guidance on entrance and exit criteria for milestone reviews of software projects, refer to NASA-HDBK-2203, NASA Software Engineering Handbook. A NASA systems engineer can also participate in the NASA Engineering Network (NEN) Systems Engineering Community of Practice, located at This Web site includes many resources useful to systems engineers, including document templates for many of the work products and milestone review presentations required by the NASA SE process.

This handbook is applicable to NASA space flight projects of all sizes and to research and development programs and projects. While all 17 processes are applicable to all projects, the amount of formality, depth of documentation, and timescales are varied as appropriate for the type, size, and complexity of the project. References to “documents” are intended to include not only paper or digital files but also models, graphics, drawings, or other appropriate forms that capture the intended information.

For a more in-depth discussion of the principles provided in this handbook, refer to the NASA Expanded Guidance for SE document which can be found at This handbook is an abridged version of that reference.