Telescope Antenna Engineer III-IV (4309)

Engineers, Technical Specialists and Technicians Charlottesville, Virginia


Position Description:


Position Summary

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is seeking to hire a structural, mechanical, or electrical engineer to lead the antenna design effort for the next generation Very Large Array (ngVLA) project, a radio telescope comprising hundreds of reflector antennae spread across several states and northern Mexico.  This exciting, new opportunity is ideal for an Engineer  with experience in telescope/antenna structural design and verification. The position is initially available for two years, starting immediately, with additional years contingent the continuation of project funding.


The ngVLA Antenna Integrated Product Team (IPT) Lead will be responsible for the specification, conceptual design, evaluation, and procurement of telescope/antenna structures for the new array. As the IPT Lead, the Engineer will lead team members working on those systems, defining and directing their work. The Antenna IPT Lead will work independently and in a dynamic team environment to support ongoing development of the ngVLA. The Engineer will also work closely with the ngVLA Project Engineer to help determine the capabilities of the ngVLA. The ngVLA project is presently in the early development stage, and the successful candidate will have the opportunity to shape the design concept for the instrument.


At present, the array concept includes approximately 214 reflector antennas each of 18 meters in diameter, operating in a phased or interferometric mode. The array may also include a smaller 6m aperture antenna in a small cluster. The observatory will operate at centimeter wavelengths (25 to 0.26 centimeters, corresponding to a frequency range extending from 1.2 GHz to 116 GHz).


The position will be based at either the Science Operations Center in Socorro, NM on the campus of New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (; or at the NRAO Central Development Laboratory in Charlottesville, VA. In addition to competitive pay, we provide excellent paid time off benefits (vacation and sick leave).  Medical, dental and vision plans are effective first day of employment.  Our retirement benefit contributes an amount equal to 10 percent of a qualified participant’s base pay. No contribution is required of the employee; we also offer an optional supplemental, tax-deferred plan for employee retirement contributions.


Job Duties Summary

Responsibilities will include specifying, and architecting, the mechanical and structural components of the antenna. The detailed design and construction of the antenna is expected to be executed by a contracted firm, and the Antenna IPT lead would be responsible for the technical management of this contract. This is expected to include the technical evaluation of their work, participation in milestone reviews, and acceptance of work products. The Antenna IPT lead will also participate in the assembly, integration, and verification planning to ensure the antenna is integrated into an array that operates to the required specification.  As a team lead, the successful candidate may also be asked to manage a team of scientists and engineers engaged in the antenna design.


Functional responsibilities for this position include, but not limited to:

  • Structural engineering analysis, design, and execution of projects.
  • Performing engineering calculations and the preparing of reports, feasibility studies, construction plans and specifications.
  • Making decisions and recommendations in design, procurement, manufacture, and installation of hardware designs.
  • Working closely with antenna optics and sub-reflector team and systems engineers to ensure ngVLA antenna overall performance compliance. Writing performance specifications and verification plans. Creating compliance matrices to note conformance.
  • Ensuring manufacturing, construction, installation, and operational testing conform to functional specifications and requirements. 
  • Reviewing work products prepared by others to assess completeness, conformance to requirements, and areas of technical risk.
  • Developing and running simulations to estimate antenna performance.
  • Managing work of the antenna team to meet set goals and milestones. Preparing cost estimates and schedules for work within the team’s scope. Communicating daily with other engineers, scientists, and analysts on the project.
  • Providing leadership to other Engineers, Technical Specialists, and Technicians, including hiring, training, planning, assigning and directing work, addressing complaints, and resolving problems.
  • Proactive compliance with NRAO and government safety policies and procedures in own work area is expected. 
  • Other duties as assigned.


Work Environment

Work is typically performed in a laboratory environment, but the engineer may occasionally be required to work outdoors, including at the Very Large Array (VLA) site at an elevation of 6,900 feet. In addition, the engineer may be required to travel domestically and internationally by air carrier and by car between NRAO sites. The Engineer:

  • Will be required to stand and sit, and perform fine hand manipulation. 
  • Must be able to operate a personal computer. 
  • Must work near moving mechanical parts and/or with electrical equipment. 
  • Will occasionally required to climb or balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch
  • May occasionally work at high altitudes, and in high, precarious places and in outside weather conditions, and may be exposed to chemicals, or the risk of electrical shock. 
  • Must occasionally lift and/or move up to 25 pounds. 
  • Must be able to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing.
  • Specific vision abilities include close vision, distance vision, color and depth perception.


Position Requirements:


Minimum Education

Bachelor’s degree in Engineering (Civil/Structural, Mechanical, Electrical)


Preferred Education

Advanced degree in an engineering discipline or a related field. 


Minimum Experience

Three years of related experience in the specification and design of large reflector antennas.  Candidates with more than three years’ experience will be considered for a higher ranking.


Preferred Experience

Five or more years of experience with specification, design, testing, and large-scale procurement of reflector antennas.


Additional Requirements

  • Must maintain a current Driver's License.
  • May be required to drive Observatory vehicles.


Competency Summary

  • Demonstrated engineering leadership as evidenced by an advanced degree, professional license, publications or original work.
  • Must have a successful record of completing projects on schedule and within budget. 
  • Familiarity with electro-magnetic theory and applications.
  • Experience with interferometric techniques and associated requirements.
  • Familiarity with project management and systems engineering processes and practices.


The NRAO is an equal opportunity employer (M/F/D/V)

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.