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SOFIA Program Manager in Mountain View, CA at Universities Space Research Association

Date Posted: 5/10/2018

Job Snapshot

Job Description

SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is a NASA program to understand our Cosmic Origins by studying the formation and evolution of planets, stars and galaxies, planets in our solar system, and extreme cosmic environments. It is the largest airborne observatory in the world, capable of making observations in the Far-Infrared that are impossible for even the largest and highest ground-based telescopes. SOFIA is an 80/20 joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), with USRA the organization selected by NASA to manage the Science Mission Operations.

Position Summary:

The Science Mission Operations Program Manager (a senior leadership role) manages the USRA/SOFIA program deliverables and performance at NASA Ames and Armstrong. He/she works with the SOFIA Mission Operations Director to maintain the appropriate level interfaces with USRA, NASA, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and the Deutsches SOFIA Institute (DSI).  Responsible for cost and schedule performance of the SOFIA Science Mission Operations Contract.  Key elements include business administration, IT support, mission safety and assurance, engineering processes, contract compliance and deliverables and operations management. Establish budgets, optimize the organization to maximize the science output through organizational efficiencies and by bringing innovative approaches. Provides programmatic support to other current and future USRA programs.

Essential Duties/Responsibilities:

  • Executive management direction and oversight for overall performance of the SOFIA SMO contract – technical, cost, schedule, risk, and discrepancy reporting and compliance with NASA and USRA corporate policies and procedures
  • Serves as the Program Manager for the NASA SOFIA Science and Mission Operations Contract
  • Provides day-to-day oversight and executive management direction of all IT activities involving COTS software and equipment, website management and maintenance, IT security, help desk, and interfaces with NASA and USRA corporate IT and network systems and resources
  • Provides executive management direction for all SOFIA SMO Mission Operations activities at ARC and AFRC
  • Provides day-to-day oversight and executive management direction for all safety and quality assurance personnel
  • Meets financial objectives by forecasting requirements; preparing an annual budget; scheduling expenditures; analyzing variances; initiating corrective actions
  • Represent USRA/SOFIA on matters related to program management at all levels of the organization, with NASA, DLR, and DSI
  • Recognizes and leverages the Institute’s strengths to identify new opportunities and applications for the organization

Other job related duties as assigned



BS in related scientific or technical fields; MBA or MPA highly desired

Licenses, Certifications:

Project Management Institute PMP certification or equivalent required; PgMP highly desired



  • At least 10 years’ experience applying program management principles to complex, technical programs, including demonstrated supervisory experience. Experience managing Federal Government contracts highly desired
  • Experience with multi-disciplined projects including science and engineering, software development, and business systems
  • Experience in collecting, analyzing and presenting project cost and schedule data to both project teams and upper management
  • Demonstrated experience collecting, analyzing and presenting programmatic cost, schedule, and other performance data to project teams, scientific staff, and senior management
  • Prior or current NASA program leadership and experience working with at least one NASA Center, highly desirable


Knowledge, Skills & Abilities:  

  • Working knowledge of project scheduling tools and management
  • Understanding of Risk Identification and Mitigation management processes
  • Understanding of all program financial and business processes and metrics
  • Knowledge of NASA missions, policies, and science organizations, preferably at NASA Ames Research Center


  • Behave Ethically: Understand ethical behavior and business practices and ensure own behavior is consistent with these standards and aligns with the values of USRA
  • Build Relationships: Establish and maintain positive working relationships with others, both internally and externally, to achieve the goals of USRA. Excellent customer focus
  • Communicate Effectively: Speak, listen and write in a clear, thorough and timely manner using appropriate and effective communication tools and techniques
  • Foster Teamwork: Work cooperatively and effectively with others to set goals, resolve problem, and make decisions that enhance fund raising effectiveness
  • Lead: Positively influence others to achieve results that are in the best interest of the organization.
  • Organize: Set priorities, develop a work schedule, monitor progress towards goals, and track details, data, information and activities
  • Plan: Determine strategies to move the organization forward, set goals, create and implement actions plans, and evaluate the process and results
  • Solve Problems: Assess problem situations to identify causes, gather and process relevant information, generate possible solutions, and make recommendations and/or resolve the problem



  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office and its applications
  • Project management software

Working Conditions:

This job primarily operates in a professional office environment. Sometime will be spent flying on the SOFIA aircraft is expected, up to 5 times each year. This role routinely uses standard office equipment such as computers, phones, photocopiers, etc. Extensive online usage. This is largely a sedentary role.


Up to 20% travel, including supporting deployments of SOFIA to remote locations including New Zealand.

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


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