Telescope Optical Engineer

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) operates several observatory centers (including the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the National Solar Observatory, and the Gemini Observatory) in the United States and Chile under cooperative agreements with the National Science Foundation.

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Project is in construction of a large ground based observatory in Chile. The 8.4-meter LSST will survey the entire visible sky deeply in multiple colors every week with its three-billion pixel digital camera, probing the mysteries of Dark Matter and Dark Energy, and opening a movie-like window on objects that change or move rapidly: exploding supernovae, potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroids, and distant Kuiper Belt Objects.

The LSST Project is divided into several integrated technical components, namely the Telescope and Site (T&S) Group responsible for constructing the summit facility/telescope observatory and the base facility/data center, the Camera Group responsible for delivering the science instrument, the Data Management (DM) Group responsible for delivering the data reduction and processing pipeline systems, the Commissioning Group responsible for integrating all subsystem components together, and Project Systems Engineering responsible for the overall requirements.

The T&S Group is responsible for the final design, construction, delivery, and verification of all telescope systems and subsystems, prior to the Commissioning phase. These deliverables are provided through industrial contracts along with internal development efforts. The T&S Group is currently managing efforts with major industrial vendors in Chile, Italy, Spain, Germany, New York, and Colorado, along with local vendors in Arizona to deliver these elements to meet the applicable requirements. In addition, the T&S Group is planning for the delivery, assembly, integration, and verification (AIV) activities on the LSST summit site on Cerro Pachón, in Chile. These deliverables are defined by technical, performance, functional, and interface requirements.

The LSST Telescope and Site (T&S) Group is seeking a Telescope Optical Engineer. The Optical Engineer (OE) primarily will lead and be responsible for the Secondary Mirror (M2) Cell Assembly effort currently underway at the Harris Corporation in Rochester, NY. The vendor contract scope of work includes polishing and optical testing (via sub-aperture stitching) of a 3.4-meter diameter, 50-mm thick convex ULE™ blank, validation of a 72-actuator active mirror support system, and integrated interferometric system testing under closed loop control to confirm final mirror figure surface error.

Support equipment provided includes a full size aluminum surrogate mirror, a large turnover cart system, and miscellaneous handling fixtures to support mirror and mirror cell mate/de-mate operations required for maintenance and optical coating. Once tested and complete, the OE will coordinate and lead the delivery of the M2 system components to the LSST summit site in Chile and oversee unpacking and assembly efforts. The OE will then assist the T&S AIV team responsible for performing telescope 3-mirror system integration and testing efforts utilizing various pieces of optical support equipment (e.g. interferometry, Shack-Hartmann sensing, laser tracker measurements, etc.).

This position requires US Citizenship in order to meet key vendor access requirements.

This position starts with the T&S Group located in Tucson, AZ, but will require travel to the vendor facilities in New York and significant time at the LSST summit in Chile, with strong preference for relocation to La Serena, Chile for the T&S AIV activities and the overall observatory Commissioning periods.

This position reports to the T&S Project Manager. Within the T&S Group, this position will work closely with the T&S Project Scientist, the T&S Deputy Project Manager for Integration (responsible for the T&S AIV effort on the summit), the T&S Lead Optics Engineer, and the T&S Control Account Managers (CAMs) responsible for the other key telescope subsystems.

The Telescope OE has the primary responsibility for supporting the T&S M2 Cell Assembly system as it undergoes assembly, testing, and completion in 2018 at the Harris facility. The OE will provide contract management support, supply optical engineering analysis as needed, and support the development of the assembly and testing plan. The OE will work directly with the vendor to schedule, execute, and witness the final acceptance testing efforts. The OE will coordinate the completion and close-out of the contract work, including delivery of all required documentation, reports, and procedures. The successful candidate will ensure that all of the M2 system requirements are properly verified and validated at the vendor facility.

The OE will work with the AURA Contract Officer to coordinate logistics issues to arrange safe transport of the M2 Cell Assembly components to the LSST summit. Once the M2 system has been delivered onsite, the OE will assist the T&S AIV team in Chile in developing and executing the needed integration tests including implementation of these tests by analysis and hands-on measurements as part of the telescope verification process. The OE will work with the T&S Coating Engineer to define and support the coating of the M2 mirror in preparation for integration of the Commissioning Camera and eventually the main science camera.

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering, or equivalent combination of education and experience.
  • Minimum 2 years’ experience in the design and construction of precision opto-mechanical systems, with strong preference to ground based telescope optical systems. Graduate work experience applicable.
  • Proficient in use of sequential and non-sequential Zemax design software (preferred), skills in other optical design, analysis, and opto-mechanical tools beneficial (e.g. Code V, FRED, SolidWorks).
  • Knowledge of optical metrology, including standard optical test-set-up, equipment, and analysis.
  • Experience in program management and/or technical contract oversight desired.
  • Knowledge of telescope observatory operations, maintenance, and safety procedures beneficial along with hands-on experience.
  • Familiarity with laser trackers and laser tracker technology (e.g. Spatial Analyzer) beneficial. Expertise in working with class IV lasers beneficial.
  • Ability to cooperate and coordinate with others at all levels in completing responsibilities.
  • Ability and willingness to travel to domestic and foreign locations during the construction phase and to ability to participate substantially at the site in Chile during assembly, integration, test, and commissioning periods.
  • Understanding of Spanish highly preferred.
  • Ability to work at altitude on the LSST summit site in Cerro Pachón, Chile (~2600m).
  • Familiarity with Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) software desired.
  • Maintain commitment to a high standard of safety, comply with all safety laws and LSST safety policies/rules, and communicate actual and potential safety concerns to appropriate supervisory or management personnel to further LSST’s core value of safety.
  • Work effectively with coworkers and others by sharing ideas in a constructive, positive manner; listening to and objectively considering ideas and suggestions from others; keeping commitments; keeping others informed of work progress and issues; addressing problems and issues constructively to find mutually acceptable and practical solutions; and respecting the diversity of the LSST workforce in actions, words, and deeds.

AURA, as a leader in the astronomical community, is committed to diversity and inclusion. AURA develops and supports programs that advance our organizational commitment to diversity, broaden participation, and encourage the advancement of diversity throughout the astronomical scientific workforce. Learn more at

As a recipient of U.S. Government funding, AURA is considered a government contractor and is subject to Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action regulations. As an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer, AURA does not discriminate based on race, sex, color, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity/gender identity expression, lawful political affiliations, veteran status, disability, and/or any other legally protected status under applicable federal, state, and local equal opportunity laws. The statements below as well as the requests for self-identification are required pursuant to these regulations. We encourage your participation in meeting these federal reporting requirements which are included for protection and to assist us in our recordkeeping and reporting. Your responses are kept strictly confidential.

Preference granted to qualified Native Americans living on or near the Tohono O’odham reservation.

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