GNC Engineer (Starshield)



hawthorne, ca, usa
Posted on Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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.


Starshield leverages SpaceX’s Starlink technology and launch capability to support national security efforts. While Starlink is designed for consumer and commercial use, Starshield is designed for government use, with an initial focus on earth observation, communications, and hosted payloads.

As an engineer on this team, you will bring a passion and expertise in areas like control theory, state estimation, orbital mechanics, spacecraft systems design, optimization, and software development to join the Starshield guidance, navigation, and control (GNC).

There are several sub-teams within Starshield GNC with different focus areas. Applicants will interview for specific teams based on hiring needs and qualifications. Specific team responsibilities might include:

  • Working collaboratively to represent the satellite system in defining scope, requirements, vehicle software, and ground services
  • Acting as a cross-disciplinary expert ensuring that the satellite system can meet mission objectives
  • Satellite orbit control, such as low thrust trajectory optimization, station-keeping, and collision avoidance
  • Supporting on-orbit space vehicle operations through all phases of flight
  • Satellite attitude determination and control
  • Constellation traffic and fleet management, including the development of supporting ground tooling
  • Constellation and network-level analysis of both existing and proposed systems
  • Drive improvements to the payload/bus interface design, automated fault detection and response, and alerting systems


  • Develop highly reliable and performant GNC algorithms, flight software, simulations, tools, services, and dashboards using C++ or Python
  • Participate in architecture, design, and code reviews
  • Bulk analysis to review performance data from various elements of the Starshield constellation and hosted payloads
  • Write high-quality technical documentation of programs, algorithms, or analysis
  • Support your relevant on-call operations rotation, commanding satellites or reviewing data to keep our vehicles, payloads, and networks continuously operating at peak performance
  • Lead investigations to understand the root cause of on-orbit anomalies


  • Bachelor's degree in computer science, aerospace, physics, or an engineering discipline
  • Software development experience in either C++ or Python


Some preferred skills and experience depend on the specific team within Starshield GNC.

  • Master's degree or Ph.D. in an engineering discipline, computer science, or physics
  • Experience developing, debugging, and deploying software that has been used in real-world applications/projects
  • Creative approach to problem-solving, exceptional analytical skills, and engineering fundamentals
  • Experience with automating complex systems
  • Cradle-to-grave development of three-axis stabilized spacecraft incorporating momentum, magnetic, and propulsive control
  • Strong understanding of orbital mechanics, including low thrust trajectory optimization and station-keeping
  • Experience with Docker/Kubernetes and Linux-based operating systems
  • Experience in verifying GNC algorithm performance via simulation, and validation of the simulation's models
  • Experience with space-based sensor platforms and state estimation, particularly attitude determination, orbit determination, GNSS, and radio navigation
  • General familiarity with the disciplines necessary for spacecraft flight including; structures, propulsion, avionics, GNC, flight software, dynamics, launch and mission operations, and integration. Practical experience in real-world development of these systems is highly desired
  • Capable of identifying and solving complex problems with little to no supervision or direction
  • Passion for advancing the commercial space industry
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced, autonomously driven, and demanding start-up atmosphere
  • Excellent communication skills both written and verbal
  • Active Top Secret or Top Secret SCI clearance, or ability to obtain one desired


  • Able to work extended hours and weekends as needed to support critical operations
  • An active clearance may provide the opportunity for you to work on sensitive SpaceX missions; if so, you will be subject to pre-employment drug and random drug and alcohol testing


Pay range:
GNC Engineer/Level I: $120,000.00 - $145,000.00/per year
GNC Engineer/Level II: $140,000.00 - $170,000.00/per year

Your actual level and base salary will be determined on a case-by-case basis and may vary based on the following considerations: job-related knowledge and skills, education, and experience.

Base salary is just one part of your total rewards package at SpaceX. You may also be eligible for long-term incentives, in the form of company stock, stock options, or long-term cash awards, as well as potential discretionary bonuses and the ability to purchase additional stock at a discount through an Employee Stock Purchase Plan. You will also receive access to comprehensive medical, vision, and dental coverage, access to a 401(k) retirement plan, short & long-term disability insurance, life insurance, paid parental leave, and various other discounts and perks. You may also accrue 3 weeks of paid vacation & will be eligible for 10 or more paid holidays per year. Exempt employees are eligible for 5 days of sick leave per year.


  • To conform to U.S. Government export regulations, applicant must be a (i) U.S. citizen or national, (ii) U.S. lawful, permanent resident (aka green card holder), (iii) Refugee under 8 U.S.C. § 1157, or (iv) Asylee under 8 U.S.C. § 1158, or be eligible to obtain the required authorizations from the U.S. Department of State. Learn more about the ITAR here.

SpaceX is an Equal Opportunity Employer; employment with SpaceX is governed on the basis of merit, competence and qualifications and will not be influenced in any manner by race, color, religion, gender, national origin/ethnicity, veteran status, disability status, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, mental or physical disability or any other legally protected status.

Applicants wishing to view a copy of SpaceX’s Affirmative Action Plan for veterans and individuals with disabilities, or applicants requiring reasonable accommodation to the application/interview process should notify the Human Resources Department at (310) 363-6000.