VLBA Specialist I-II (4915)

Engineers, Technical Specialists and Technicians Los Alamos, New Mexico


Position Description:


Position Summary

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is a diverse, exciting, and prestigious research facility that plays a vital role in the study of the universe. The Observatory operates a variety of radio telescopes that span the globe, including the famous Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. These telescopes are among the most advanced in the world, allowing astronomers to explore the universe in unprecedented detail.


The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) announces an VLBA Station Specialist. The VLBA Station Specialist is a hands-on technical staff member skilled and experienced in multiple areas such as digital and analog electronics, mechanical hardware, HVAC systems, general site maintenance, and operations support. NRAO is seeking an employee willing to climb a large radio telescope antenna, troubleshoot and fix problems there or in the site building, and otherwise keep the site operational to enable astronomical data to be continuously received, processed, and delivered for scientific study. This is a rewarding opportunity, where the tenure of Specialists is typically measured in decades due to the interesting work and the Observatory’s great benefits and work-life balance.


In general, the Specialist, along with another Specialist, is responsible for installation, repairs, and maintenance at the Very Long Baseline Array Station located on the facilities of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, in Los Alamos, NM. The station includes the 25-meter antenna and support infrastructure and is part of a 10-antenna array, spread across the US, all capturing radio astronomical data delivered to a centrally located correlator. The Specialist will interact with other personnel at these sites and at the correlator site. The Specialist must respond to emergency repair situations as dictated by the impact on the station's ability to perform intended functions. The employee typically works with the other Specialist, but is occasionally solo when schedule issues arise and is on-call on alternating weekends.


What You Will be Doing:

The position performs maintenance, inspection, testing, troubleshooting, repair, data delivery and other work on the Very Long Baseline Array Station, including the 25-meter Antenna. The station includes Radio Frequency receiver and cryogenic systems, data and communications equipment, data recorders, recording media, servo control systems, mechanical drive equipment, and weather stations.


Routine duties include:

        Using standard electronic test equipment, recording effects on unit performance, inspection, and adjustment and/or replacement of defective system components.

        Performing scheduled maintenance, lubrication and mechanical and electronic inspections.

        Monitoring and maintenance of all systems for proper operation. This includes the emergency power generating equipment, fire alarms, and HVAC systems.

        Consultation with the other VLBA Specialist assigned to this site and with NRAO technicians and engineers located elsewhere in formulating and planning corrective actions.

        Other preventive and corrective maintenance on hardware, test equipment, and peripheral equipment, including inspection against specifications or for quality. 

        Use of electronics test equipment such as digital multimeters, spectrum analyzers, oscilloscopes, signal generators, and power supplies. Use of hand tools for mechanical work or repair.

        Upkeep of the site and facilities.

Additional duties include:

        Writing technical reports and developing charts, graphs, and schematics to describe equipment’s operating characteristics, malfunctions, deviations from design specifications, and functional limitations. This includes documentation of work performed.

        Recommendation of changes required to achieve functional requirements of the units.

        Maintenance and servicing of facilities and equipment, including creation of records and reports.

        Proactive compliance with all NRAO policies and procedures is required.

        Other duties may be assigned. May be asked to travel to other VLBA sites to support maintenance.


Work Environment

The Specialist frequently works in high places, up to 100 feet, in outside weather conditions. The noise level in the work environment is usually moderate. The employee works near moving mechanical parts and is exposed to electrical hazards. These and other situations mean the employee is often responsible to perform lockout/tag out to create a safe work environment.


Who You Are:



        You have an Associate of Science degree or equivalent in Electronics. While not required, you may have a Bachelor’s Degree in a related field.

        You have two years of experience in the Electronics or Electrical fields.  Qualified candidates with 5 or more years of experience may be considered for the Specialist II classification.

        While not required, you may have five or more years of experience in the Electronics training or Electrical fields, with experience in technical support radio astronomy or telecommunications equipment and installations.

Clearance requirement

Must be able to pass a security background check to work on the Los Alamos National Laboratory grounds


Competency Summary

Candidates must have the ability to work independently and reliably with minimal direct supervision. They must be able to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing and operate a personal computer and common software. They must be able to solve technical problems and deal with a variety of situations where only limited documentation and standardization may exist. Candidates must have and maintain a current Driver's License and they may be required to drive Observatory vehicles.


Total Rewards:


The NRAO offers a comprehensive total rewards package for this position, subject to eligibility requirements. We are committed to serving our employees and their families with an extensive and competitive compensation and benefits package that supports our employees’ overall well-being and career growth.



The NRAO strives to attract and retain dedicated, highly qualified, competent, and motivated employees by offering competitive compensation and recognition for performance.


Factors which may affect starting pay may include; education, experience, skills, competencies, other qualifications of the successful candidate, as well as internal equity and labor market conditions



NRAO’s benefits package addresses the needs of employees and their families with most benefits beginning on the first day of employment. NRAO provides excellent paid time off (13 holidays, annual accrual of up to 24 vacation days and 15 sick days, additional time off for doctor/dentist visits, and 8 weeks of paid parental leave). Medical, dental and vision plans are effective on the first day of employment. NRAO’s retirement benefit contributes an amount equal to 10 percent of a qualified participant’s base pay with no required employee contribution; we also offer an optional supplemental, tax-deferred plan for employee retirement contributions.


Application Instructions:


Select the “Apply” button. Please be prepared to upload your current CV/Resume and a cover letter describing interest and suitability for the position


Equal Opportunity Employer Statement:


AUI is an equal opportunity employer. Women, Minorities, Vietnam-Era Veterans, Disabled Veterans, Veterans and Individuals with Disabilities are encouraged to apply. To view our complete statement, please visit http://jobs.jobvite.com/nrao/jobs. If you require reasonable accommodation for any part of the application or hiring process due to a disability, you may submit your request by sending an email to [email protected].



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.