Adaptive Optics Engineer II

Job Details

Job ID: 11100

New ideas are all around us, but only a few will change the world. That’s our focus at JPL. We ask the biggest questions, then search the universe for answers—literally. We build upon ideas that have guided generations, 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’re driven to discover, create, and inspire something that lasts a lifetime and beyond, you’re ready for JPL.


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 collaboration, and reward excellence.


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. This section also specializes in optical communications, including use of high-power lasers, sensitive single-photon detectors and actuator-sensor systems for accurate 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 developing high speed connectivity throughout the solar system and beyond? Are you a strategic leader who enjoys the challenge of working on developing cutting-edge systems in wavefront control and adaptive optics?


We seek a self-motivated individual who can work well both independently and in a team environment to serve as an Adaptive Optics Engineer Level 2 within the Optical Communications Systems Group, reporting to the Group Supervisor. 

Tasks include:

  • Take responsibility for operating, tuning and optimizing our Adaptive Optics system for coupling laser communications signals from space-borne assets into a fiber-fed modem.
  • Propose and conduct experiments for exploring the operating limits of the Adaptive Optics system, improving the signal coupling efficiency and general performance and stability of the system.
  • Support the integration, test and requirements verification of NASA’s primary Optical Ground Station for the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD).   This includes test planning and procedure development, test execution, and post-test data analysis and reporting.
  • Support free space optical communications demonstrations of bi-directional space-to-ground links that are in a implementation phase to be advanced to operational readiness over the next two years.
  • Continuous building upon 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.


Required skills:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, Applied Physics, or related technical discipline with typically a minimum of 3 years of “hands-on” experimental experience; Master’s degree in similar disciplines with a minimum of 1 year of related experience; or PhD in area related to optical engineering and/or physics with 0 years of experience.
  • Strong understanding of adaptive optics algorithms and optical hardware along with underlying principles, theories, concepts and techniques in adaptive optics.
  • Able to design, set up and align 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 data collection and report generation.
  • Ability to develop data-acquisition, instrument control and data analysis software for efficiently generating reports.


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 Optical Design software, especially Zemax and/or Code V.
  • Experience with advanced optical testing, including automated data-logging and analysis.
  • Experience coupling signals into single-mode fiber systems.
  • Extensive laboratory skills and ability to participate in a team.

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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