Ms. Sue O'Brien

Space Hardware Lead Boeing Contract lead Principal Research Engineer VII, RSESC


301 Sparkman Drive
Von Braun Research Hall
Room M60
Huntsville, AL 35899
Campus Map



Ms. O'Brien is a Principal Research Engineer in the Rotorcraft Systems Engineering and Simulation Center (RSESC) at The University of Alabama in Huntsville specializing in the areas of systems development and system engineering. Over the past 24 years, she has been the Principal Investigator and Project Manager on over twenty-five engineering contracts with a total value in excess of seventeen million dollars. She has over twenty years of experience in hardware and software systems including flight hardware design, development, management, integration and systems operation for flight and ground payloads for NASA and Army Aviation. Her NASA experience includes the design and development of numerous International Space Station, Space Shuttle, sounding rocket, and KC-135 payloads. Preliminary design, critical design and safety review Phases 1-3 experience. She has also been working with Army Aviation, Army Missiles and Space, NAVIAR and the Office of the Secretary of Defense in systems engineering tasks, feasibility studies, airworthiness, building field replaceable kits for Army Aviation assets, completing independent assessments and value engineering designs.

Current research interests are in system development and on the processes of implementation of systems engineering on simple to complex programs throughout the lifecycle. This includes the development of hardware and software systems utilizing systems engineering and safety management tools to provide confirmation of effective systems engineering processes, value engineering and technical trades. In the recent past, she has been heavily involved in the evolving process of model based engineering and Systems Engineering Planning according to the Office Under the Secretary of Defense guidance. In accordance with this evolving process and past experience, the Rotorcraft Center at UAH developed a Systems Engineering Toolkit (SET) to assist project offices in creating their Systems Engineering Plans and investigated with a team the maturity of Architecture Analysis & Design Language (AADL) for model based engineering.

Honors & Awards

  • MSFC Core Value Teamwork Award from the Science Directorate for the design and development of the Deep Space Test Bed, August 2004
  • Group Achievement Award for the design and development of SUBSA and PFMI International Space Station Glovebox payloads, July, 2004


  • Patent Pending – Systems Engineering Toolkit, Submitted July, 2007.
  • Passive thermal Control Enclosure for Payloads Patent No. 6,718,776 – Awarded 4/13/04

Recent Publications

  • "Systems Engineering Plans Organized with Users in Mind", S. O'Brien, L. Liever, D. Sabados, AHS Annual Forum 66, May 2010.

  • "A Tool to Enhance Systems Engineering Planning", S. O'Brien, D. Sabados, J. Snider, 11th Annual Systems Engineering Conference, Oct, 2008

  • "Deep Space Test Bed for Radiation Studies", Adams, Adcock, Apple, Christl, Cleveland, Cox, Dietz, Ferguson, Fountain, Ghita, Kuznetsov, Milton, Myers, O'Brien, Seaquist, Smith, Smith, Warden, Watts, Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research April, 2007

  • "Enhancing Systems Engineering Planning and Practices", S. O'Brien, D. Sabados, Invited speaker at the Southeastern Systems Engineering and Software conference (SE3), May, 2003

  • "Vapor Transport Growth of Organic Solids in Microgravity and Unit Gravity," S. O'Brien, M. Zugrav, W. Carswell, G. Haulenbeek, M. Sanghadasa, B. Ghita, W. Gathings, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Oct. 2002

  • "Space Station Facilities for Processing Optical Materials," S. O'Brien, G. Workman, AIAA Conference Proceedings, October 2001

  • "Space Processing Facility", S. O'Brien, OSA Conference Proceedings, Summer 2000

  • "Low Temperature, Low Energy Carrier (LoTec) and Phase Change Materials for Biological Samples", S. O'Brien, F. Wessling, SAE, July 2000 “Overview of the ISS Space Product Development Experiment Module (SPDEM), S. O'Brien, G. Workman, R. Naumann, C. Watson, G. Thompson, D. Dawson, A. Nelson, c. Cacioppo, AIAA Conference Proceedings, Jan. 2000.

  • "O-Ring Fiber Optic Pressure Sensor", A. Bouzid. M. A. G. Abushagur, Z. He, and S. Kosten, Appl. Optics 33, (1994) pp 1074-1076. Final Report, Methodology Investigation of the Kearfott GPS/INS Installed on a UH-60A, March 1998.

  • "Effects of Microgravity on ZBLAN Optical Fibers Utilizing a Sounding Rocket," G. Smith, D. S. Tucker, G. L. Workman, S, O'Brien, SPIE Proceedings 2809, pages 23-32, Denver, CO, August, 1996.