- A careers page for SpaceX shows that the rocket company founded by Elon Musk is in a big hiring phase.
- SpaceX appears to be using new hires to establish a global satellite internet network, build rocket ships that could go to Mars, and launch NASA astronauts into space.
- Most jobs call for engineers, technicians, and supervisors or managers. But some positions are for cooks, security guards, writers, editors, and even baristas.
SpaceX’s first launch – its own – was more than 16 years ago, when a handful of employees opened a nearly empty office.
“In 2002, SpaceX basically consisted of carpet and a mariachi band. That was it,” its founder, Elon Musk, has said.
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But these days, thanks to cash infusions worth billions of dollars, SpaceX has ballooned its staff beyond 6,000 people, according to recent Federal Communications Commission filings. The rocket company is using this army to outprice and outperform its competitors in a new space race. SpaceX and Musk’s ultimate quest is to create a human settlement on Mars.
To get these and other jobs done, the rocket company is on a hiring spree that shows no signs of slowing.
In March 2017, SpaceX had more than 470 positions listed on its careers page, most of which have presumably been filled by now. As of Tuesday, however, SpaceX had more than 540 open positions. An analysis by Thinknum suggests the company’s hiring slowed around September but has risen steadily since then.
“The men and women who work with me are integral in supporting our mission to make humanity multiplanetary – and we need more folks to join us,” Andy Lambert, SpaceX’s vice president of production, said in a recent Reddit post.
The myriad job descriptions, along with recent statements from Musk, reveal what kind of help SpaceX is looking for.
Why SpaceX is hiring hundreds of people
Musk’s rocket company plans to launch 30 of its workhorse Falcon 9 rockets this year. That would be a record-breaking pace for a country, let alone a single company.
SpaceX is about to fully transition to the last major iteration of its Falcon 9 rocket, called Block 5. Musk has described the partly reusable launcher as the “most reliable rocket ever built.”
The company also recently wrapped up a yearslong $US500 million effort to create its behemoth Falcon Heavy rocket – it essentially puts the power of three Falcon 9 launchers into one system.
These advancements, Musk has said, have freed up much of his engineering workforce to focus on other projects.
As we previously reported, SpaceX is shifting a lot of resources toward its most ambitious project: the Big Falcon Rocket, also called the Big F—ing Rocket, or BFR.
The 348-foot-tall fully reusable system is scheduled for an “aspirational” first launch toward Mars in 2022. Its enormous spaceship – which sits atop a similarly enormous booster – is being built out of carbon-fibre composites in the Port of Los Angeles. That prototype is expected to roll out of SpaceX’s facilities in Texas and begin hopping around with short test launches sometime in 2019.
In a series of remarks in September, Musk said the system would replace everything SpaceX has built thus far, since its total reusability means it will cost relatively little to launch payloads of any size.
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“We want to have one system, one booster and ship, that replaces Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and Dragon,” Musk said, referring to SpaceX’s other rockets. “If we can do that, then all the resources that are used for Falcon 9, Heavy, and Dragon can be applied to this system.”
But the BFR isn’t just for Mars – Musk plans to use it to create the world’s fastest transportation system, in conjunction with a Hyperloop, a subterranean transportation network he’s also working on.
Though SpaceX is hinging its future on the BFR, it’s just one major effort for which the company needs workers.
SpaceX is also working on its Crew Dragon spaceship, as well as cargo launches for NASA.
Then there’s Starlink, a global constellation of nearly 12,000 internet-providing satellites. (That’s double the number of satellites that have been launched in the history of access to space, according to a count by the Union of Concerned Scientists.)
SpaceX launched two handmade Starlink prototypes in February, and the FCC approved its larger plan in March. If the rocket company can pull off that project, the entire planet will be covered in ultra-high-speed, low-latency internet signal within a decade.
It’s a lot to take on, so SpaceX needs talented help – and quite a bit of it – if those efforts are to succeed.
The jobs available at SpaceX and where they’re located
As of Tuesday, SpaceX’s careers page offered 542 jobs across 42 departments, and all the postings begin with this otherworldly mission statement:
“SpaceX was founded under the belief that a future where humanity is out exploring the stars is fundamentally more exciting than one where we are not. Today SpaceX is actively developing the technologies to make this possible, with the ultimate goal of enabling human life on Mars.”
Here’s where SpaceX’s job openings are located across the US:
About two-thirds of positions are based at SpaceX’s global headquarters in Hawthorne, California, which is part of the Greater Los Angeles area.
The jobs based in Redmond, Washington, are most likely tied to Starlink, since that’s where SpaceX has opened a fabrication facility. If the job descriptions and the company’s history are any clue, SpaceX plans to do as much in-house manufacturing as possible.
Take, for example, the description of the first open position on the list, an antenna engineer:
“You will be part of multidisciplinary team that will contribute to the following: • Design of advanced antenna and feed systems in support of next generation products. • Fabricate and characterise prototypes of antennas, feed systems and RF front ends. • Contribute different aspects of the integration of the antennas into spacecraft and other systems.”
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In short, this person will most likely help enable Starlink satellites to send data to and from Earth.
SpaceX is also hiring in McGregor, Texas, where its testing facility is. The company is developing its next-generation Raptor rocket engines there.
Here’s a rough breakdown of the types of jobs the company is offering:
Nearly all these jobs are full time, and about half are for engineers and technicians who have experience working with rocket engines, robots, software, explosive fuels, or other high-tech systems required to colonize Mars.
That leaves a bunch of “other” jobs, though, and few walks of life are excluded.
SpaceX needs four line cooks to provide “courteous and informative customer service in an ‘open kitchen’ format” – two in Cape Canaveral, Florida (a hub for launch activity), one in Hawthorne, California (company headquarters), and another in Vandenberg, California (where SpaceX sometimes launches rockets).
It’s also hiring four technical writers and an editor, as well as electricians, security officers, and even coffee-shop baristas.
What working for Musk and SpaceX is like
People who worked at SpaceX – or at least claim to have done so – have provided mixed reviews of their experiences in recent years.
Some on Quora praised Musk’s leadership, saying they’d follow him “into the gates of hell carrying suntan oil.”
Former SpaceX interns previously told Business Insider that “people who work there are more driven to work than they are driven to go home” and that “they get burned out really quickly.”
Other former interns said that while SpaceX employees are “some of the hardest-working and brightest people in the world,” they are “universally defeated” by the intense work demands and expectations.
SpaceX maintains it’s a top place to make a career.
“SpaceX has been named one of the top 50 places to work by Glassdoor the past two years in a row,” the company told Business Insider. (Glassdoor is a site that gathers anonymous reviews of companies by current and former employees.)
If you want to work at SpaceX, the résumé you hand in better list some serious qualifications.