Associate Mission Operations Specialist (Telescope Operator)

Submission Information
Publish Date: 
Thursday, June 11, 2020
Archive Date: 
Thursday, September 3, 2020
Job Summary
Job Category: 
Science Engineering
Institution Classification/Type: 
SOFIA / Universities Space Research Association
United States of America
Job Announcement Text: 

The Associate Mission Operations Specialist (Telescope Operator) has primary responsibility to perform in-flight observing tasks involving the Telescope Assembly (TA) in conjunction with the Science Instrument (SI) and overall SOFIA mission.

Position Summary:

The Associate Mission Operations Specialist provides primary flight and ground support involving the SOFIA Telescope and Science Instruments.  Day-to-day MOS activities include but are not limited to: staffing the telescope to observe during flights, conducting functional checks during ground operations (line-ops), completing Day-of-Flight (DOF) checklists before flight, preparing Mission Operations (MOPS) Review of mission plans for upcoming flight series, developing telescope observing plans for each  flight, preparing post-flight reports, troubleshooting telescope issues, archiving and distributing data, assessing the quality of data, supporting instrument operations, and providing input for improvements to user interface software development.

Please note: incumbent must qualify for US Government Public Trust Clearance

Essential Duties/Responsibilities:

  • Operate the SOFIA Telescope Assembly to support science data acquisition
  • Execute Day-of-Flight (DOF) checklists to prepare the telescope and facility science instruments for flight
  • Provide up-to-date and reliable documentation on the telescope and mission systems performance and telescope and science instrument observing procedures
  • Maintain operational logs and fault reports for telescope and mission systems during observations and communicate issues appropriately
  • Participate in integration, testing and validation for upgrades to telescope and mission systems, and observing modes for science instruments
  • Participate in development of processes and procedures for safe and efficient operations of the telescope and facility science instruments

Additional Responsibilities:

  • Participate in observation planning and instrument commissioning
  • Provide input to design of telescope and mission systems user interfaces
  • Support test of mission system and telescope software and hardware
  • Complete required trainings as scheduled
  • As time allows, may cross train and fill in for other flight or ground positions within the Mission Operations group
  • Ensure the protection of NASA and USRA intellectual property with respect to commercial and 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
  • Other job related duties as assigned

Required Qualifications:

Must be qualified for a U.S. Government Public Trust clearance.


  • Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent in science, engineering, astronomy, or computer science is preferred, or equivalent experience / certification


  • Working knowledge of operations of astronomical instruments and optical and/or infrared observing techniques
  • Working knowledge in the application of software systems in the execution of scientific research
  • Several years operations experience at a major observatory very advantageous
  • Lab experience in a scientific and/or research environment preferred
  • Familiarity with engineering and software design processes desirable

Licenses, Certifications:

  • Incumbents must pass an annual physical examination to be qualified for flight duty, training, and minimum flight rate

Knowledge, Skills & Abilities: 

  • Teamwork and the ability to work effectively with a diverse group of co-workers, customers (including scientists, engineers, technicians, and administrators), and supervisor in a professional and courteous manner
  • Knowledge of software and hardware systems, UNIX, TCL, C, Java or Perl a plus
  • Knowledge of instrument hardware, data acquisition software, astronomical data reduction, and instrument commissioning is desired
  • Must be safety conscious, willing to participate in safety training and assume safety responsibilities in flight
  • Excellent written and verbal communication in English is required
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office and its applications
  • Ability to read and understand technical manuals, engineering and manufacturing drawings, including schematics, wiring diagrams and optical designs and layouts
  • Ability to write routine reports and correspondence and speak effectively before groups
  • Ability to identify, analyze, and address problems using a wide range of analysis and solution strategies
  • Ability to define problems, collect data, establish facts, and draw valid conclusions

Working Conditions:

  • The employee must be capable and proficient at 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. Must be proficient at working in time critical and/or high pressure/stress environments.
  • The employee may occasionally be exposed to fumes or airborne particles. The employee may be exposed to moving equipment, vehicles and mechanical parts.  The noise level in the work office environment is typically mild.  The environment on the aircraft during flight operations may become noisy, cold, and tiring.
  • While performing the duties of this job, the employee is frequently required to stand, walk, sit, and use hands. Keyboarding for large time spans each day will be a significant part of this position.  The employee may need to lift and/or move up to 50 pounds. 
  • Must be able to complete a set rotation of flights, and be prepared to work night shift operations when scheduled to do so (estimated 60% of the time), and occasional weekend and holiday work.
  • Work on the SOFIA Program is in a highly visible public setting. There can be no expectation of personal privacy while performing the job.


  • Domestic and international travel (up to 3 months for international deployment). Up to 30% travel.

Applicants should apply to the posting at and include a letter of interest, resume, or curriculum vita.  Review of candidates will begin immediately.  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: 
Monday, September 14, 2020
Selection Deadline: 
Monday, September 14, 2020
Current Status of Position: 
No Status Given (Opted Out)
Apply to Job
Attention To: 
Ben Tanis
Talent Acquisition
Universities Space Research Association
Street Line 1: 
7178 Columbia Gateway Drive
Zip/Postal Code: 
United States of America
Inquiries About Job
Attention To: 
Ben Tanis