SpaceX Internship ProgramA group of SpaceX interns outside the company's headquarters in Hawthorne, California.Interns at SpaceX aren't making copies or grabbing coffee for higher-ups — they're helping build and program rockets to launch into outer space instead.
Each year, SpaceX hires over 700 interns who get a taste of what it's like on the cutting edge of space travel.
It reads: "If you’re undaunted by the impossible, actively seeking out insanely challenging projects under tight schedules, and want to work with a remarkable organization pushing the envelope of human exploration, then you will want to be part of the SpaceX legacy."
Interns are hired in a number of different departments — avionics, dynamics, launch operations, manufacturing, propulsion, structures, and enterprise information systems — in SpaceX's headquarters on Rocket Road in Hawthorne, California.
The company also hires a smaller number of interns at its rocket launch facility in McGregor, Texas and at its launch facilities in Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base, as well as at its offices in Houston and Washington, D.C.
We spoke to three former SpaceX interns who told us what the experience is really like.
The usual intern hiring process includes two in-depth phone interviews. One former intern, who worked in guidance control at the rocket facility in McGregor before accepting a second internship at HQ, had to get through three phone interviews. During these interviews, he was asked highly technical and brain teaser-style questions.
Lucy Nicholson/ReutersElon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX.
"They want to see how you reason your way to an answer, " the intern, who wished to remain anonymous, told Business Insider. "For example, if you were in a boat in the middle of a lake, and you had a bunch of rocks in the boat, if you threw them in the water, would the water level rise or fall?"
(The answer, in case you're curious, is that the water level would fall because rocks are more dense than water.)
Blake Robbins, another former intern who worked at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, said he was given a few hypothetical situations to reason his way through.
"One of the questions they asked me was, 'If Elon said to you something like, 'I need hundreds of this one part by the end of the week, ' but the supplier says they need three months to make it, what would you say?'" Robbins said.
Grueling hours and burnout
Interns might not have the title or salary of a full-time SpaceX employee, but they often work like one.
A SpaceX intern at work on a rocket.
One intern joked, "The best thing about working at SpaceX is the flexibility. You can work whatever 80 hours a week you want."
Some interns might stay late or even put in some time over the weekend. A former intern who recently got a full-time offer from SpaceX says he expects his responsibilities won't change much with the promotion.
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