Facility Science Instrument Engineer

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Thursday, December 9, 2021
Archive Date: 
Thursday, March 3, 2022
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Science Engineering
Institution Classification/Type: 
SOFIA / Universities Space Research Association
United States of America
Job Announcement Text: 

The Facility Science Instrument Engineer (FSIE) is responsible for maintaining the FSIs to support the observing community once the SI is delivered to the Science Mission Operations (SMO).  FSIE’s are experts in Facility Science Instruments (FSI) and serve as the point of contact for FSI hardware.  The FSIE will work closely with the Instrument Scientists, engineers, aircraft and telescope technicians and Operators to execute science instrument (SI) lab and aircraft activities. FSIE ensures Science Instruments (SI’s) are ready for science flights. FSIEs are expected to have full understanding of the Science Instruments to manage SOFIA schedule demands.

Essential Duties/Responsibilities: 

  • Understand and becomes fully cognizant of the Science Instrument design, layout, maintenance and operations, including mechanical, electrical, optical, vacuum, cryogenic and computer systems
  • Organize and lead SI install presentations and reviews
  • Drive FSI maintenance, upgrades, modifications and/or repairs
  • Coordinate with the manager to plan and staff monthly SI activities. Responsible for day to day operations of the FSI
  • Develop or modify procedures to install, test, maintain, and operate instruments in the lab and on the aircraft
  • Identify and actively mitigate FSI risks in maintenance and operations 
  • Report, document and effectively articulate FSI technical issues to USRA management and NASA Review boards
  • Maintain configuration logs for the FSI, tracking hardware changes that impact airworthiness or ICD compliance. Also, responsible for updating drawings/documentation as required
  • Establish SI best practices and strive to continuously optimize SI performance
  • Responsible for SI compliance with NASA Safety and Mission Assurance standards
  • Support Principal Investigator Instrument teams in the lab and on the aircraft as needed
  • Coordinate closely with Lab Supervisor to coordinate FSI lab maintenance, repairs and upgrades
  • Execute FSI domestic and international deployment operations. Includes planning, scheduling, shipping, logistics, export control, setting up lab infrastructure. Expected to provide logistical support to PI instruments
  • Support new SI development initiatives
  • Collaborate with the SI developers- to provide guidance in SI development
  • Plan and coordinate engineering verification and performance tests for new or upgraded SI’s
  • Support Mirror Coating Facility (MCF) operations and maintenance
  • Work with teammates to support day of flight operations
  • Mentor engineers and technicians
  • Participate or support SOFIA Education and Public Outreach initiatives

Additional Responsibilities:

  • Ensure the protection of NASA and USRA intellectual property with respect to commercial, International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) concerns through disclosures, patent applications, and adherence to NASA’s scientific and technical information dissemination guidelines.
  • Support efforts by USRA Management to ensure that USRA conducts its business operations in an effective, cost-competitive, and professional manner  
  • Completes all required administrative, corporate and operations trainings on time to ensure currency and for continued operations support

Required Qualifications:


  • A Bachelor’s degree in electrical / mechanical/optical engineering or a related technical field or equivalent


  • At least 7 years of experience maintaining technical equipment in a scientific and /or research environment is required
  • Proficiency in mechanical and/or electrical CAD packages

Licenses, Certifications:

  • Must be able to pass an annual basic physical exam for lab work and flight
  • Must complete / pass required training for certifications to work with science instruments in the hangar labs and on the aircraft

Desired Qualifications:

  • Master’s in electrical or Optical or Mechanical Engineering
  • Experience with other astronomical science observatories and science instruments is highly desirable
  • Demonstrated experience with cryogens, cryogenic systems, and vacuum systems is preferred
  • Knowledge of NASA missions, NASA policies, Airworthiness and science organizations would be considered an asset
  • Zemax proficiency is desired
  • Hands on experience in one or more areas described below:
  • Electrical engineering: circuit analysis, soldering; electro-optics, power budget analysis, grounding and shielding
  • Optical engineering; IR/optical systems, opto-mechanical/electro-optical control systems, IR/optical detection; 
  • Mechanical engineering: FEA, thermal and structural system design and fabrication, opto-mechanics

Knowledge, Skills & Abilities:  

  • Strong practical electrical / mechanical/optical engineering knowledge in order to understand the capabilities of the science instruments and effectively maintain them
  • Ability to work with a diverse group of scientists, engineers, technicians, and administrators effectively in a professional manner
  • Ability to focus on mission in high stress environment
  • Fosters teamwork, cross-team collaboration, relations and ethical behavior 
  • Ability to read and understand technical manuals, engineering and manufacturing drawings, including schematics, wiring diagrams and optical designs and layouts, and possess basic machining and electrical wiring skills
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Excellent written and verbal communication in English is required. Ability to clearly describe issues and how to resolve them
  • Ability to work within a diverse, multicultural and international teams
  • Ability to read and interpret documents such as safety rules, operating and maintenance instructions, policies and procedure manuals
  • Ability to write routine reports and correspondence, speak effectively before groups of customers or employees of organization

Working Conditions:

The employee must be capable of performing all duties in a technical / scientific setting including offices, laboratories, shops, and aircraft maintenance facilities as well as on the aircraft / observatory, both while on the ground and on aircraft. 

The activities in the office environment include using standard office equipment such as computers, phones, photocopiers, etc. Extensive online usage. Keyboarding for large time spans each day will be a significant part of this position. The noise level in the work office environment is typically mild.

A significant portion of the work day will occur either on an airplane or in a lab inside an aircraft hangar. While performing the duties of this job in the operations environment, the employee may be exposed to fumes or airborne particles, moving equipment, vehicles and mechanical parts. The environment on the aircraft during flight operations may become noisy and tiring. 

Employee will be required to work with cryogens such as Liquid Helium (4K) and Liquid Nitrogen (77K). Employee is expected to diligently follow learned safety measures associated with cryogens. Also will be operating Helium, Nitrogen and Argon gas cylinders. Training will be provided for safe operations with cryogens and gases. And, will be working in cold and hot weather conditions. 

Work on either day or night shift and weekends may be scheduled for this position up to 50% of the time.

While performing the duties of this job, the employee is frequently required to stand; walk; sit, use hands. The employee may need to lift and / or move up to 50 pounds. 


This position is based at Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) in Palmdale, CA; but travel is required at times to NASA Ames Research Center and annual international deployment(s) up to 3 months are required. 

Applicants should apply to the posting at USRA Careers and include a letter of interest, resume, or curriculum vita. Additional information on USRA can be found at www.usra.edu

Effective December 8, all USRA employees must be fully vaccinated (2 weeks past final dose) unless they are entitled to a reasonable and legal accommodation. If you are not vaccinated, please consider getting your COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please contact your HR Recruiter for further information.

USRA is an Equal Opportunity Employer: Minorities / Females / Protected Veterans / Disabled / Sexual Orientation / Gender Identity.

Application Deadline: 
Tuesday, March 1, 2022
Selection Deadline: 
Tuesday, March 1, 2022
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
Apply to Job
Attention To: 
Ben Tanis
Talent Acquisition
Zip/Postal Code: 
United States of America
Institution/Company Job ID or Reference Code: 
Universities Space Research Association
Inquiries About Job
Attention To: 
Ben Tanis