MOST INTERESTING AND AWESOME THINGS I SAW/LEARNED ON MY PRIVATE TOUR OF SPACEX
My new beau is on a bike team with two people that work at SpaceX and arranged for a tour for us because I'm OBSESSED with Elon Musk and SpaceX. Our guides work on the Falcon and Dragon rockets.
- •Once you walk through reception and past the first floor cubicles and conference rooms, you're on the factory floor where all the parts of the rockets are made and assembledThere are cylinders you could drive a bus into and people applying heat shield polymers and whatnot six feet from you.
- •Virtually all of the parts for the rockets - exterior to engine components - are made in houseThey've started 3D printing some of them as it's more efficient.
- •They use this stuff called hypergolic propellant in their engines that's so toxic it basically kills you on contactThe people that handle it basically wear spacesuits with their own air circulation systems. But the benefit is that it can spontaneously combust, so there's no need for an ignition system.
- •SpaceX has come up with a way to weld together two sheets of metal using vibrationInstead of a flame the molecules kind of rearrange themselves to be next to each other. That makes the seam much more smooth.
- •Our guides worked an average of 50-60 hours a weekThe average used to be closer to 70-80 but management has been trying to be more reasonable because employee burnout and turnover was a problem. (That said, it was Friday at 8pm and we'd just had dinner with them and they were heading back to their desks to finish some things up.) Around launches, hours are usually crazy.
- •The average age of employees is mid 20sThere really isn't anyone over 30 working there. Unclear if it's because employees want a more manageable schedule for families so they don't stick around or because of the nature of the work. There were people in the cafeteria that looked 12.
- •Yes, Elon is around sometimesOnce there was an issue with a certain system so Elon moved his desk down into that area of the production floor and sat in front of the team until they figured it out. Elon never eats the employee food.
- •When they ship a rocket to their testing facility in Texas it travels via highway at nightThe employees are notified of the route out of LA because it makes traffic a bitch.
- •Apparently it's tough to be up on SpaceX gossipPartly it's the company not keeping employees informed about what's happening to make sure trade secrets don't get out, partly it's just a huge place with 5500 employees and you mostly interact with your own department.
- •Sometimes they show movies on the screen in mission controlApollo 13 was one of them, which is pretty on the nose.
- •The conference rooms on each floor have themesFirst: scientists and mathematicians. Second: scifi writers. Third: Mars and Mars things like its moons. An in joke is apparently saying that a meeting is "on Mars" when it's in that room.
- •There are a series of posters of Mars on the mezzanine level (in the employee cafeteria/eating area - one of two small cafeterias)They go from Mars as it is today to how it would look terra formed and with an atmosphere. Elon is as into Mars as reports suggest.
- •Recently they've had to crack down on tours like these because the interns get too excited and bring by all of their friends and family, distracting the people making rocket partsSo now they mostly happen on Fridays and while our guide would have once snuck us up a staircase for a birds-eye view, that can't happen anymore.