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Job Title:
Engineering Technician (Mechanical Designer), IS-0802, Grade 11; $77,738 to $101,055 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, approved asylee or refugee) or be a national of a country eligible to be approved on an export license who is eligible to work in the US.


The purpose of the position is to provide expert mechanical design detail support to the development of instrumentation for both space-borne and ground based astrophysical data collection and scientific experiments.


1. Provides technical expertise in the design of and drawings for mechanical, electromechanical, optical and electrical components and assemblies for unique and/or experimental state of the art science instruments. This would include the preparation of original layouts, computations, and engineering documentation for varied design features of mechanical and opto-mechanical assemblies, sub-assemblies and component parts of scientific instruments. The incumbent will have independent responsibility for planning and executing work that may be either a complete unit, or portion of an assembly requiring integration into the designs of engineers or other designers on the assigned project. Assignments involve projects having both conventional and innovative aspects.

2. Translates concepts provided by engineers and/or project scientists into functional designs resulting in associated layout and detail drawings. Conceptual inputs will be in the form of rough sketches, design studies, verbal descriptions, and computer generated models. Selects effective methods and procedures, adapts available designs and/or develops new designs according to the requirements of each assignment.

3. Interprets and employs conventional engineering principles, practices, guidelines, and precedents as well as NASA program requirements (where applicable) in considering design requirements including contamination, structural integrity, corrosion resistance, orbital and ground environments, coefficients of thermal expansion, machinability, weldability, formability, etc. as applicable to the design of scientific equipment and components.

4. Performs calculations, studies, and analyses to support designs, such as geometric and dimensional tolerance studies, trigonometric calculations associated with optical layouts, mass property calculations, stress analyses, and deformation analyses.

5. Evaluates candidate designs and considers additional modifications that may be necessary or desirable to improve efficiency. May also be required to modify existing designs or components to accomplish specific functions different from those for which they were originally designed.

7. Supports engineering design reviews and technical meetings. Makes substantive contributions to "make-buy" decisions for instrument associated components and assemblies; and to decisions regarding design, fabrication, and assembly techniques.

8. Interacts independently with the SAO Model Shop, outside machine shops, and vendors to acquire fabrication/cost and delivery estimates and follow progress on the machining of parts shipment of components.

9. Prepares and/or oversees the preparation of all required layout, assembly, and detail drawings within the guidelines of the C. E. Engineering Documentation Release/Control Plan (EDRC) and associated procedures and the specific requirements of assigned projects.

10. Develops conceptual and final designs for laboratory and test equipment needed to support various research programs. Designs will be based upon specifications provided by engineers and/or scientists.

11. Maintains, and updates as required, a complete electronic database of all CAD model and drawing files. Ensures that all engineering documentation is accurate and current in the project’s electronic Configuration Control database. Maintains a database of standard or common hardware and components.

12. Performs other duties as required.


Individual Occupational Requirements:

This series covers technical positions supervising, leading, or performing work involving applying a practical knowledge of the methods and techniques of engineering or architecture; and
construction, application, properties, operations, and limitations of engineering systems, processes, structures, machinery, devices, and materials.

Basic Requirements:

One (1) full year of specialized experience which equipped you with the particular knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform successfully the duties of this Engineering Technician position. Experience in a trade or craft may be credited as specialized experience when the work provided intensive knowledge of engineering principles, techniques, methods, and precedents. Examples are trade positions with substantial developmental, test, or design responsibilities such as: Planner and estimator who analyzed designs for production purposes. Instrument maker or model maker who performed design or development work on devices fabricated.


Equivalent combinations of education and experience are qualifying.

For more specific information on qualification requirements, see Qualification Standards Handbook for General Schedule Positions viewable on the web at

For the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccination requirements and its impact on your application, click on Smithsonian Institution’s Frequently Asked Questions.  

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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