I spent my Fall as an intern in propulsion analysis at SpaceX. I had unparalleled mentors in rocketry, computational physics and software engineering. The intern program is top-notch, and to me represented the most effective “in” to the notoriously selective and demanding company. Moreover, the internship duration was a perfect interlude in my academic career. On both ends of the table, the internship offers an opportunity to go beyond words on a page to see if the job is a dream for the candidate and the candidate is the dream candidate for the job. The intern program at SpaceX is honed: housing, social opportunities, good payment and both mentoring and a high level of independence and mission critical responsibility are all provided. I would recommend the experience unequivocally to anyone dreaming of working on the cutting edge of rocket science.
Although I worked on computational physics day-to-day, I learned an incredible amount outside of that domain working on the edge of a rocket factory floor. Seeing engines, fairings, harnesses, stages and production in person did more for my understanding than reading thousands of textbook pages (although I did that, too). The basics and history of rocketry are fascinating, so if you are so inclined here are some suggested readings:
The future of rocketry is with SpaceX and the best way to experience it is to work there.
This experience was the first time I had worked under a boss in a good while and the rigor of expectations was both refreshing and required some getting used to; my final review was glowing and highlight improvements in this respect. I hope the insights I acquired will help me manage more effectively in the future, both myself and others. Moreover, the majority of interns were quite a bit younger which was also a great experience. One of the joys of getting older is that the age range of the circle you can call friends gets wider – meaning a greater variety of people to learn and grow from and to be proud of. That said my sub-group often takes on interns just having finished or in the midst of doing their PhDs (do you fit the bill? they are recruiting a Spring intern, C++ expertise required).
SpaceX has some incredible times coming up and I will highlight a few in the public domain here. SpaceX will be attempting to land the Falcon 9 on an autonomous drone ship using a new design for grid fins that should help with steering the rocket to the target. This is the first key step to reusability of the first stage of the rocket. SpaceX will push forward with crewed dragon, bringing back crewed space flight capabilities to American lead initiatives. SpaceX just landed one a major NASA scientific contract, and the years to come will see high thrust high payload weight capabilities with the Falcon Heavy configuration. Looking forward, SpaceX is developing and will deploy the high thrust Raptor engine which runs on oxygen and methane, for both a more efficient and modern engine and one using propellant available on Mars. SpaceX may very well one day add the assets of Mars to the balance sheet, and everyone from the techs to the management is on board for realistic step by step plan to #OCCUPYMARS.
Cheaper space exploration will enable scientific and industrial projects never before possible and take the realm of space exploration, scientific experiments and satellite domination outside the realm of nation states and the equivalent billionaire multinationals more toward the realm of the every day person or collective. The moon landings still stand as a crowning achievement of what humanity can be but that taste is stale and unknown to our generation. We will see even more incredible events in the next 20 years and history will show these to be ushered in by SpaceX
Finally, I express my deep admiration for Gwynne Shotwell and Elon Musk as leaders and visionaries. I’m confident SpaceX has a solid plan, capable leadership, and a bright future which is forward thinking.
0 thoughts on “#OCCUPYMARS: my experience as a SpaceX intern”
Fantastic review! Thank you very much for writing this, Dr. Corbett.