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Front-end design, from poorly defined user needs to conceptual design, is difficult to do, and difficult to teach. The process itself is typically experience-based and ad-hoc. Attempts to define a formal, teachable process are often unrealistic. Here, a new process is described, as well as a course built on using it as an educational experience. The process uses modeling to systematize architecture selection and conceptual design, using low fidelity, carefully scoped models. The course focuses on using the process to develop a novel, complex space system architecture to address a realistic need. The course was successful in both implementing the process and accelerating learning. An analysis reveals that it moves intuition-based decisions forward, from choosing the design (difficult for students, and limiting in terms of creative designs) to defining the models used to evaluate potential designs, and scoping of the design space explored. Lessons learned from difficulties encountered are also noted.