Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Daniel A. DeLaurentis

Committee Chair

Daniel A. DeLaurentis

Committee Member 1

William A. Crossley

Committee Member 2

Kathleen C. Howell

Committee Member 3

James M. Longuski


The increasing size and complexity of space systems and space missions pose severe challenges to space systems engineers. When complex systems and Systems-of-Systems are involved, the behavior of the whole entity is not only due to that of the individual systems involved but also to the interactions and dependencies between the systems. Dependencies can be varied and complex, and designers usually do not perform analysis of the impact of dependencies at the level of complex systems, or this analysis involves excessive computational cost, or occurs at a later stage of the design process, after designers have already set detailed requirements, following a bottom-up approach. While classical systems engineering attempts to integrate the perspectives involved across the variety of engineering disciplines and the objectives of multiple stakeholders, there is still a need for more effective tools and methods capable to identify, analyze and quantify properties of the complex system as a whole and to model explicitly the effect of some of the features that characterize complex systems.

This research describes the development and usage of Systems Operational Dependency Analysis and Systems Developmental Dependency Analysis, two methods based on parametric models of the behavior of complex systems, one in the operational domain and one in the developmental domain. The parameters of the developed models have intuitive meaning, are usable with subjective and quantitative data alike, and give direct insight into the causes of observed, and possibly emergent, behavior. The approach proposed in this dissertation combines models of one-to-one dependencies among systems and between systems and capabilities, to analyze and evaluate the impact of failures or delays on the outcome of the whole complex system. The analysis accounts for cascading effects, partial operational failures, multiple failures or delays, and partial developmental dependencies. The user of these methods can assess the behavior of each system based on its internal status and on the topology of its dependencies on systems connected to it. Designers and decision makers can therefore quickly analyze and explore the behavior of complex systems and evaluate different architectures under various working conditions.

The methods support educated decision making both in the design and in the update process of systems architecture, reducing the need to execute extensive simulations. In particular, in the phase of concept generation and selection, the information given by the methods can be used to identify promising architectures to be further tested and improved, while discarding architectures that do not show the required level of global features. The methods, when used in conjunction with appropriate metrics, also allow for improved reliability and risk analysis, as well as for automatic scheduling and re-scheduling based on the features of the dependencies and on the accepted level of risk.

This dissertation illustrates the use of the two methods in sample aerospace applications, both in the operational and in the developmental domain. The applications show how to use the developed methodology to evaluate the impact of failures, assess the criticality of systems, quantify metrics of interest, quantify the impact of delays, support informed decision making when scheduling the development of systems and evaluate the achievement of partial capabilities.

A larger, well-framed case study illustrates how the Systems Operational Dependency Analysis method and the Systems Developmental Dependency Analysis method can support analysis and decision making, at the mid and high level, in the design process of architectures for the exploration of Mars. The case study also shows how the methods do not replace the classical systems engineering methodologies, but support and improve them.