16 tough interview questions you may have to answer if you want to intern at SpaceX, one of the best places to work

  • SpaceX interns work 80 hours per week and help the company launch rockets and improve its dynamics.
  • So the aerospace company, recently rated one of the best places to work, asks some tough interview questions to ensure that it is hiring the right people.
  • Questions mainly explored the realms of physics and quantum mechanics at an extremely advanced level

Forget about fetching coffee. As an intern at SpaceX voted one of the best companies to work for – 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 $US22 an 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?’

‘What is the size of an integer on a 32-bit system?’

‘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’?’

‘What is a null pointer?’

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


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

‘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?’

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

‘How would you attach a sensitive instrument to a shaking surface?’

‘How would you find a cycle in a singly-linked list?’

‘There are all kinds of data structures out there, like arrays and heaps. Why can’t there just be one that does it all?’

‘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?’

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

‘How do you reverse a stack, using only the pop and push methods?’

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

‘Describe the design process of a series of pipes to be used in a rapid fuelling 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.’

‘How do you regulate the temperature of something in space? What is your main limiting factor?’

‘What makes you different from every other engineer that applies to SpaceX?’

Natalie Walters contributed to a previous version of this article.

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