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Telescope Operations Manager (Internal) in Palmdale, CA at Universities Space Research Association

Date Posted: 4/13/2018

Job Snapshot

Job Description

The Mission Operations Specialist (MOS) Manager manages the Telescope Operator (TO) staff and activities within the SOFIA project.  This includes the primary responsibility to perform in-flight observing tasks involving the Telescope Assembly (TA) in conjunction with the Science Instrument (SI) and overall mission. Ground support responsibilities involve preparation for this work prior to a flight series. Responsibilities in-flight include operation of the Telescope Assembly (TA) to acquire and observe targets, and communication and coordination of observations with Science Instrument teams. Ground support responsibilities may include telescope and mission system troubleshooting, maintenance and upgrades, data archiving and distribution, data quality assessment, instrument support, observing and flight preparations, and user interface software development. Must be safety conscious, willing to participate in safety training and assume safety responsibilities in flight.


Essential Duties/Responsibilities:

Lead and manage activities for MOS department

  • Oversee, monitor, and perform the day-to-day MOS activities including but not limited to: flight, DOF, MOPS Reviews, flight prep, post-flight reporting and follow-up
  • Develop and maintain personnel shift schedules for flight activities in accordance with the approved annual observatory schedule
  • Represent the MOS group to the Mission Operations team as well as the larger SOFIA team when required
  • Report up on MOS activities and issues; prepare weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual reports related to status / results
  • Determine training practices, standard processes and procedures, and roles for developing a strong and robust team
  • Ensure MOS related manuals, processes, and procedures are developed and maintained/updated as necessary
  • Coordinate implementation of training plan for new staff, as well as refresher/currency training
  • Understand overall Mission Operations vision and goals; maintain MOS portion of overall Mission Operations task schedule, ensuring appropriate staffing for all activities and that they fall under Core or approved IDIQ contracts and are in compliance with NASA and USRA standards
  • Oversee MOS related Discrepancy Reports (DRs) and Configuration Change Requests (CCRs): attend Observatory Configuration Control Board (OCCB) meetings, write / comment / track relevant DRs and CCRs, schedule staff as appropriate to address DRs and CCRs
  • Assess and adjust to changing situations, identify and implement innovative solutions to make improvements as needed

Participate in the day-to-day MOS activities:

  • Must be safety conscious, willing to participate in safety training and assume safety responsibilities in flight
  • Operate the SOFIA telescope with acceptable performance to support science data acquisition
  • Development of processes and procedures for operations of mission systems
  • Participation in integration, testing and validation for upgrades to mission systems
  • Support preparation of telescope and facility science instruments for flight
  • Provide up-to-date and reliable documentation on the telescope and mission systems performance and telescope and mission systems specific observing procedures
  • Maintain operational logs and fault reports for telescope and mission systems during observations and communicate issues appropriately

Staff management

  • Complete all administrative tasks in a timely manner: timecards, leave requests, EA/ER approvals, etc.
  • Participate in appropriate management and project/program meetings
  • Recruit and hire diverse staff who add value and achieve organization goals
  • Lead / manage staff to set and achieve department objectives
  • Communicate pertinent information to staff in a timely manner to ensure staff have a clear understanding of organizational goals and desired results through regular meetings and email
  • Create a work environment that encourages creative thinking, collaboration, maintains program focus, and produces results
  • Provide an inclusive workplace that fosters the development of others to their full potential
  • Facilitate collaboration, cooperation, teamwork and support constructive resolution of conflict
  • Direct, monitor and evaluate the work of employees, providing performance feedback and development opportunities and intervening to correct performance problems

Additional Duties

  • 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
  • Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent in science, engineering, astronomy, or computer science is preferred, or equivalent experience / certification
  • Knowledge of software and hardware systems, UNIX, TCL, C, Java or Perl a plus


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
  • Knowledge of software and hardware systems, UNIX, TCL, C, Java or Perl a plus


  • 2+ years of experience on SOFIA, including at least 1 year within the SOFIA MOS department, including leadership experience
  • 5-7 years operations experience at a major observatory very advantageous
  • Possess working knowledge of astronomical instruments and optical and/or infrared observing techniques

Licenses, Certifications:

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

Knowledge, Skills & Abilities:  

  • TO Skills: Demonstrated proficiency in essential MOS tasks.
  • Analytical Skills: Excellent analytical and abstract reasoning skills.
  • Planning and Organization: Demonstrated track record of setting and meeting goals. Strong process improvement, decision making, organization, planning and implementation skills.  Strong organizational skills with an ability to balance competing demands. Ability to set priorities, analyze and resolve problems, and make decisions in a timely fashion.
  • People Management: Ability to lead, influence and motivate individuals and teams. 
  • Interpersonal Skills / Communications: An effective communicator at all levels in the organization, with strong oral and written skills and a willingness to share information.  A collaborative and flexible style. Excellent written and oral communication skills – write routine reports and correspondence, speak effectively before groups of co-workers or customers. Demonstrated leadership ability, team management, and interpersonal skills.
  • Teamwork: Ability to work with a diverse group of scientists, engineers, technicians, administrators, and managers.
  • Computer/Technical Skills: High level computer skills, including above average knowledge of the Microsoft Office applications. Ability to read and understand/interpret technical manuals such as policy and safety rules, operating and maintenance manuals, process and procedure manuals.

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


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