Interview #2

Student Name: Ismail Hozain

Name of person interviewed: Eric Pillai

Profession: Manufacturing Engineer

Location and business name: SpaceX, Hawthorne California, Remote interview

Date of interview:11/07/21

Time: 11am

Eric is an engineer at Spacex who worked on the Dragon Capsule. He specifically worked on a structural rib that housed the majority of the Draco Thruster, which is the main engine on the Dragon Capsule. Dragon is what goes on as the 3rd stage to the Falcon 9 for crewed missions. Recently he transferred to be a heat shield engineer on the Dragon team, optimizing the ablative heat shield. It turns out that the main material in it is cork.

I asked him about what kind of skills I need to work at SpaceX and he said that I needed to just go and build things. I would almost certainly need a degree in aerospace engineering if I wanted to do any propulsion engineering design work as those who didn’t get any degree had a hard time getting an interview as many of the recruiters only look for people at T20 schools with top GPAs and basically the top 1% of the engineering population they can get their hands on. Elon’s rhetoric of not caring about the degree doesn’t translate all the way down to the hiring ranks. He spoke about the liquid fueled rocket club that he founded at Berkeley which is similar to what I’m working on.

We spoke a little bit about autogenous pressurization which is the process of using a saturated fluid, typically a cryogen, heating it using resistive heaters to a precise boiling point to get the desired tank pressure at the cost of specific impulse (efficiency). We then spoke about the price of Helium and it’s usability for amateur engine pressurization. He seemed to have gotten scammed by a helium dealer as he quoted me that a K bottle would have cost them $900. I found similarly sized Helium for about $250 in the same area so I won’t be pursuing any design changes there.

That was the bulk of the interview. Overall it gave me more insight into SpaceX rather than the actual profession I’d like to pursue but it is still beneficial. It turns out that many more engineers are on the production and automation side of things rather than the design side so if I don’t want to work in manufacturing engineering then I’ll have to be really good at what I do.