11 tough interview questions you may have to answer if you want to intern at SpaceX

caption
Elon Musk is the CEO and CTO of SpaceX.
source
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Forget about fetching coffee – as an intern at SpaceX, you’ll help design, build, and launch rockets that could potentially take humans to Mars.

So it follows that you’re going to have to answer some tough interview questions to get the gig.

Each year, more than 700 interns join SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, for 80-hour workweeks at about $22/hour in departments like avionics, dynamics, launch operations, manufacturing, and enterprise information systems.

The hiring process typically consists of two in-depth phone interviews, during which intern candidates have to answer questions like the following, which we found on Glassdoor.


“What are composites?”

caption
SpaceX interns gather in front of the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
source
SpaceX Internship Program

“What is the size of an integer on a 32-bit system?”

caption
A group of SpaceX interns celebrate a win at the company’s annual “Aerospace Summer Games.”
source
Courtesy of SpaceX Intern

“Let’s say you have a variable ‘var’ assigned to be ‘2’. What will display if you print ‘var++’? If you print ‘++var’ on the next line, what will be displayed? What is the final value of ‘var’?”

caption
An interior promo shot of the SpaceX Crew Dragon, which is designed to carry astronauts.
source
SpaceX

“What is a null pointer?”

caption
A shot from a GoPro inside a SpaceX rocket.
source
SpaceX

“If you have a large, heavy object moving very, very fast, how do you safely slow it down?”

caption
Falcon 9 launches from Space X’s Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
source
SpaceX/Flickr

“How would you go about a design for an electrical harness to protect it from a sharp object falling from above?”

caption
SpaceX Dragon, the first commercial spacecraft in history to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, in an artist’s depiction of it landing on Mars.
source
SpaceX Photo on Flickr

“Imagine a cantilever beam fixed at one end with a mass = m and a length = L. If this beam is subject to an inertial force and a uniformly distributed load = w, what is the moment present at a length of L/4?”

caption
Elon Musk standing in front of the SpaceX Dragon.
source
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

“How would you find a cycle in a singly-linked list?”

caption
The interior of SpaceX Crew Dragon, which will carry out the company’s first human missions in 2017.
source
SpaceX

“What happens when you run a high current (spot welding) through a nickel piece touching a copper piece?”

caption
An unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket explodes after liftoff from Cape Canaveral in July 2015.
source
Thomson Reuters

“One side of a beam is attached to a wall and the other is free. If a force is applied, where would it break, and what would you need to know to determine the force that would break the beam?”

caption
A SpaceX intern works on a SpaceX model.
source
YouTube

“Describe the design process of a series of pipes to be used in a rapid fueling system for a liquid propellant rocket engine. Be sure to include which equations would be best for the case at hand for fluid pressure calculations and structural considerations.”

caption
The SpaceX Dragon is designed to carry both cargo and humans, although the first human missions for the company will not take place until 2017.
source
NASA