Ground Support Engineer

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Archive Date: 
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
To event remaining 61 days
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Science Engineering
Institution Classification/Type: 
SOFIA / Universities Space Research Association
United States of America
Job Announcement Text: 

The Ground Support Engineer will provide engineering services for SOFIA Mission Operations. This will involve hardware design, review, build, integration, and test; as well as process and procedure development  and implementation (including documentation) in the following areas: Pre/Post- and Day of- Flight execution; Science Instrument (SI) and Principal Investigator (PI) instrument and rack installation on aircraft; SI and PI support on aircraft and in the labs; Telescope Assembly (TA) and Layout of Personnel and Accommodation (LOPA) configuration for flight series; Mission Operations Maintenance such as Primary Mirror cleaning between flight series, Mirror Coating Facility (MCF) maintenance; Mirror Coating such as Primary Mirror handling support including Primary Mirror Assembly (PMA) Cart and crane operations; Facility Science Instrument (FSI) maintenance; and Mission Operations Labs including setup and maintenance of the Optics Lab and Pre-Flight Integration Facility (PIF) and the MCF.

Essential Duties/Responsibilities:

  • Work lab/aircraft shifts to assist the Facility Science Instrument Engineer (FSIE) with routine maintenance and operations of the Facility and Principal Investigator (PI) Science Instruments. This includes: 
  • Installation and removal of Science Instruments from the aircraft
  • Regular cryogenic fills
  • In the lab, functional checkouts, characterization, and calibration of the FSIs to the specifications laid out in the FSI manual
  • On the aircraft, pre/post-flight instrument check out, integration and ground testing (line operations)
  • Maintain equipment used to service the Science Instruments, Electronics Laboratories, the Telescope Assembly Alignment Simulator (TAAS), the Pre-Flight Integration Facility (PIF), and the Mirror Coating Facility (MCF).
  • Design and analyze components/parts related to SI’s and MCF
  • Assist FSIE’s and Instrument Scientists in SI troubleshooting
  • Responsible for the complete design process for mechanical and/or electrical assemblies
  • Responsible to generate detailed engineering design, design review presentations and analysis reports for NASA reviews
  • Provides end to end support throughout the project life cycle to include conceptualization, design, development, fabrication, test and operations
  • Coordinate with machine shop to ensure mechanical designs are manufactured on time
  • Operation of the TAAS as required for each Science Instrument.
  • Perform periodic mirror cleaning procedures on the aircraft and in the MCF
  • Perform routine operations of the Mirror Coating Facility, including sample coating
  • Perform any required Integration, Test, and Verification (IT&V) activities
  • Document all work accomplished based on established procedures
  • Estimate workload and provide weekly updates to the Maintenance and Engineering Manager
  • As time permits may cross train and fill in for other ground or flight positions within the Mission Operations staff

Additional Duties / Responsibilities:

  • Complete required trainings as scheduled
  • Ensure the protection of NASA and USRA intellectual property with respect to commercial and ITAR/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 and effective, cost-competitive and professional manner

Required Qualifications:


  • A Bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related technical field or equivalent is required.


  • 3 years of related lab experience in a scientific and/or research environment is required.
  • Practical hands-on experience with delicate electronic, mechanical, optical connections and instruments, handling cryogens and gases is desirable
  • Experience in board layout of PCB assemblies including microcontrollers, rugged connectors, power devices, etc. is highly desirable
  • Demonstrated experience to safely operate newly developed capital equipment by understanding and following the instructions of team members.
  • Strong written communications and organization skills to develop clear technical instructions that permit safe operations for maintenance tasks

Licenses, Certifications & Skills:

  • Must be able to pass an annual basic physical exam for lab work and flight
  • Must complete / pass required periodic training for certifications to work with science instruments in the labs and on the aircraft
  • Proficiency in CAD packages preferably Solidworks or Proe/Creo, or Altium
  • Proficiency in both classical hand calculations and FE tools to design parts for aircraft is highly desirable
  • Demonstrated experience in performing technical tasks in the operation, installation, testing, and maintenance of electronic and mechanical lab equipment including oscilloscopes, digital multi-meters, frequency analyzers, power supplies, data acquisition tools, vacuum pumps and leak detectors is desirable
  • Skills to perform engineering analysis of cryogenic systems such as gas flow rates and pressure drops
  • Knowledge of airworthiness requirements for both mechanical and/or electrical components is highly desirable
  • Understanding of design for assembly and integration in complex optomechanical or optoelectronic devices is desirable
  • Knowledge and skills in maintaining, calibrating, operating, and to some degree modifying, astronomical instruments, in particular instruments including cryogenic systems, optics, and detector arrays is highly desirable

Knowledge & Abilities:  

  • Excellent team player who enjoys interacting with internal team members of various disciplines
  • Ability to focus on mission in high stress environment
  • Must be detail oriented and organized
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office and its applications.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication in English is required.
  • Ability to write routine reports and correspondence and speak effectively before groups.
  • Ability to communicate effectively with remote support personnel, either by telephone or electronic mail, describing accurately and clearly, the symptoms of equipment failures and malfunctions, as well as the sequential corrective actions taken, through trouble logs and databases.
  • Ability to independently devise, setup, conduct, and analyze tests on instruments to investigate performance characteristics.
  • Ability to identify, define, analyze, and address problems, collect data, establish facts, and draw valid conclusions using a wide range of analysis and solution strategies.
  • Ability to interpret an extensive variety of technical instructions and deal with several abstract and concrete variables.

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 during flights. 

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

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

Application Deadline: 
Thursday, September 2, 2021
Selection Deadline: 
Thursday, September 2, 2021
Current Status of Position: 
Accepting Applicants
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Attention To: 
Ben Tanis
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Attention To: 
Ben Tanis