Optical Engineer III

Job Details

Job ID: 10847

With an unmatched history creating groundbreaking advances in science and technology, JPL has been in the space exploration business since the beginning. Located in Pasadena, California, JPL has a campus-like environment situated on 177 acres in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and offers a work environment unlike any other: we inspire passion, foster innovation, build teamwork, and reward excellence.


We resonate with people who are looking for ways to go further and offer an opportunity to be part of a team of passionate and dedicated engineers working with some of the world’s best capabilities and cutting- edge technology in science, technology, and engineering.  We take great pride in JPL’s innovative work culture, and offer a comprehensive benefits plan, relocation, tuition reimbursement, and generous Caltech retirement contributions.




The JPL Communications, Tracking and Radar Division performs scientific investigations, advanced technology research, engineering developments and system imple­mentations encompassing space telecommunications, tracking and active remote sensing using electromag­netic waves. 


Within the Communications, Tracking and Radar Division, the Flight Communications Section engineers cost-effective space borne communications systems, services and products including direct-to-Earth (DTE) and proximity relay links for NASA/JPL and non-NASA missions; developing, delivering and supporting software-defined radios (SDRs), spacecraft and airborne antennas, RF power amplifiers, and related products for RF system applications. Also, this section specializes in optical communications, including deep space lasers, sensitive single-photon detectors and actuator-sensor systems for accurate narrow laser beam pointing, in addition to developing telecom concepts and demonstrating them for infusion into operational ground and space systems of NASA missions, for DARPA, and other agencies.


Do you have a passion for space exploration and and working towards implementing high speed connectivity throughout the solar system and beyond? Are you a strategic leader and enjoy the challenge of working on automating ground-based systems comprised of high power lasers, cryo-cooled sensitive detectors and optics?

We seek a self-motivated individual who can work well both independently and in a team environment to serve as an Optical Engineer level 3 within the Optical Communications Systems Group, reporting to the Group Supervisor. 

Tasks include:

  • Support free space optical communications demonstrations of bi-directional space-to-ground links that are in a conceptual design phase to be advanced to operational readiness in next two years
  • Design, monitor and control of ground optical systems integrated to existing telescopes for transmitting lasers to space and receiving optical signals from space assets while gathering telemetry and handling streaming data into and out of the ground station with real-time signal processing.
  • Lead the test and verification of the optical ground station with critical interfaces to remote operations elements.
  • Continuous building upon the experience gained in fielding ground optical systems for space optical links, to advance future development of robust operational systems for use with existing, as well as, planned large aperture ground assets is expected.
  • Contribute to new ideas for improved system architecture, performance, and implementation.
  • Write or contribute to proposals and publish in relevant journals and conferences.




  • Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, Applied Physics, or related technical discipline with typically a minimum of 6 years of “hands-on” experimental experience; Master’s degree in similar disciplines with a minimum of 4 year of related experience; or PhD in area related to optical engineering and/or communications with 2 years of experience in similar disciplines. 
  • Strong understanding and wide application of principles, theories, concepts and techniques in laser /electro-optics.
  • Able to setup and simulate opto-mechanical systems and sensor assemblies needed for implementing robust control of laser beam pointing.
  • Familiarity with the use of optical and electronic test equipment, for automated, high accuracy data collection and report generation.
  • Ability to develop data-acquisition, instrument control and data analysis software for efficiently generating reports 
  • Extensive laboratory skills and ability to participate in a team.


Preferred skills:

  • Good understanding of lasers, photon-counting detectors and signal processing for supporting robust ground receivers for optical communications to and from space.
  • Experience with advanced optical testing, including automated data-logging and analysis.
  • Experience in developing and testing free-space optical communication systems.
  • Knowledge and understanding of signal processing with firmware highly desirable



New ideas are all around us, but only a few will change the world. That is our focus at JPL. We ask the biggest questions, and then search the universe for answers—literally. We build upon ideas that have guided generations, and then share our discoveries to inspire generations to come. Your mission—your opportunity—is to seek out the answers that bring us one-step closer. If you are driven to discover, create, and inspire something, that lasts a lifetime and beyond, you are ready for JPL.

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