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Job Title:
Mechanical Engineer (Opto-Mechanical), IS-0830, Grades 11 and 12; $74,129 to $115,510 annually
Type of Position:
Trust Fund (non-federal) Indefinite
Job Location:
Cambridge, MA
Posting Opening Date:
Posting Closing Date:

AREA OF CONSIDERATION:  This position requires access to export-controlled work. The candidate must be a U.S. person (citizen, permanent resident or be a national of a country eligible to be approved on an export license.

Note: Selection will be made at either the grade 11 or 12. If selection is made at the grade 11 level the selectee may be non-competitively promoted to the next higher level up to the grade 12 upon recommendation of the Promotion Review Committee for Engineers( PRCE).


The purpose of the position is to support the scientific investigations of the Observatory by providing opto-mechanical engineering expertise to the development of ground, balloon, airplane or space based astrophysical data collection instrumentation and associated support and test equipment. The incumbent may be required to support multiple projects simultaneously. This position is in Cambridge, MA


Duties for grade 11: 

1. Provides professional design engineering and analysis support to opto-mechanical aspects of state-of-the-art astrophysical instrumentation and associated test and ground support equipment. This includes, but is not limited to, items such as optical error budgeting, optical fabrication planning, optical mount design, opto-mechanical alignment, telescope support structure assembly design, environmental test planning, calibration systems hardware, and simulators; and such areas as optical instrument packaging, and machine drawings.

2. Using specialized design and modeling software, conducts engineering analyses--including tradeoff analyses—in support of the development of the opto-mechanical aspects of assigned instrumentation, so that the best compromise between cost, schedule, and performance is achieved.

3. Participates with other engineering staff in investigating, selecting, justifying, and procuring critical mechanical, servo-mechanical, and electro-optical components to be used in astrophysical instrumentation and its development. Conducts vendor surveys and prepares procurement specifications for selected components. Both independently and in cooperation with Product Assurance staff, reviews hardware received to assure compliance with specifications, and monitors subsequent assembly and/or installation.

4. Consults on opto-mechanical fabrication at outside vendors to assure that fabricated parts are consistent with the design. Supports Product Assurance in incoming and in process inspection as requested.

5. Supports the test and evaluation of instrumentation and opto-mechanical assemblies, including thermal vacuum, vibration, optical alignment, and spacecraft integration, in SAO engineering labs, at vendors, and at the facilities of NASA, NSF, or collaborating organizations.

6 Documents work performed through regular technical reports and memoranda. Participates with other engineering and scientific staff in evaluating aspects of new instrument concepts, writing proposals, and performing trade-off analyses in support of future space or ground-based astrophysics instrument development.

7 Participates in project design reviews.

8. Travels as required in support of above duties.

9. Performs other duties related to the position as assigned by the supervisor and/or Central Engineering

Duties for grade 12: In addition to the above

Serves as opto-mechanical task lead as assigned. Coordinates and oversees the work of design/drafting staff and serves as project technical liaison with subcontracted engineering organizations.


(A) Degree: professional engineering. To be acceptable, the curriculum must: (1) be in a school of engineering with at least one curriculum accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) as a professional engineering curriculum; or

(2) include differential and integral calculus and courses (more advanced than first-year physics and chemistry) in five of the following seven areas of engineering science or physics: (a) statics, dynamics; (b) strength of materials (stress-strain relationships); (c) fluid mechanics, hydraulics; (d) thermodynamics; (e) electrical fields and circuits; (f) nature and properties of materials (relating particle and aggregate structure to properties); and (g) any other comparable area of fundamental engineering science or physics, such as optics, heat transfer, soil mechanics, or electronics.
(B) Combination of education and experience--college-level education, training, and/or technical experience that furnished (1) a thorough knowledge of the physical and mathematical sciences underlying professional engineering, and (2) a good understanding, both theoretical and practical, of the engineering sciences and techniques and their applications to one of the branches of engineering.

In addition to the Basic Requirements, applicants must meet one of the following requirements:

For grade 11: One year of professional experience equivalent in difficulty and responsibility to grade 9 level work in the Federal service within or closely related to the position being filled.  Specialized experience would typically include generating optomechanical specifications for lenses and/or mirrors fabrication, assisting in the assembly and alignment of optomechanical systems.

For grade 12: One year of professional experience equivalent in difficulty and responsibility to grade 11 level work in the Federal service within or closely related to the position being filled. Specialized experience would typically include developing the design of optomechanical components and overseeing the development of the specifications to purchase them, developing the plans to assemble and align optomechanical systems and lead that effort.

This position has a mandatory education requirement; you must furnish a copy of your transcript of college work completed (unofficial copy is acceptable) or a copy of your degree certificate. Non-submission may result in you being rated ineligible for the position.
Basic qualification requirements can be found at and


Important Note: Your resume and supporting documentation will be compared to your responses to the occupational questionnaire or other assessment tool for consistency. If a determination is made that you have rated yourself higher than is supported by your resume, you will be assigned a rating commensurate to your described experience. Your resume should provide detailed information regarding how your education and experience relate to this position, including the major duties and qualifications criteria listed.

APPLICATION PROCEDURE We will only accept applications on line for this position.  For complete information about this position and the online application procedures, please visit:  USAJOBS 


The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is an equal opportunity employer committed to diversity in our workplace

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