Sr. Propulsion Engineer (Merlin Thrust Chamber)



hawthorne, ca, usa
Posted on Wednesday, June 19, 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.


As a Sr. Merlin Propulsion Engineer, you will own all aspects of ongoing Merlin Thrust Chamber Assembly (TCA) design, development, qualification, and production support for both the Merlin 1D (M1D) and Merlin 1D Vacuum (MVacD) engines. In this role, you will utilize your strong technical knowledge of metallic structures, materials, fluid systems, welding, and analysis techniques to ensure rapid production and maximum reliability of the Merlin engines. You will fully integrate with the Merlin development, production, test, refurbishment, and flight operations teams as we fly commercial, science/exploration, national security, and crewed missions at a pace of 144+ flights per year.


  • Support build, test, and flight of Merlin Thrust Chamber Assemblies for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy reusable launch vehicles on-site at SpaceX’s Hawthorne, CA headquarters
  • Work with manufacturing engineers to ensure TCA and key sub-assemblies are manufactured correctly and efficiently
  • Generate accurate, precise, and thoughtfully-dimensioned CAD models and drawings for the TCA, and ensure that these drawings are able to be efficiently manufactured with the available processes (or develop new processes to enable them)
  • Perform and/or review detailed structural, thermal, and fluid analyses on all TCA components/systems, and confirm that they meet the required standards for life, performance, and reliability targets
  • Lead new and ongoing design and process improvements to maximize rapid manufacturability and reliability of the M1D and MVacD TCA
  • Lead the resolution of issues encountered with the TCA during testing or flight operations
  • Support M1D and MVacD engine test teams for development, qualification, and production engine tests
  • Support launch and refurbishment teams remotely and on-site to ensure reliability during continued engine reuse


  • Bachelor’s degree in an engineering discipline
  • 5+ years of professional experience in hardware or propulsion system development


  • Bachelor’s degree in mechanical or aerospace engineering
  • Master’s degree in an engineering discipline
  • Hands-on experience with rocket engines of any size
  • 3+ years of experience in TCA or rocket engine development (includes internships, personal projects, and school or team projects)
  • Experience with TCA or rocket engine development in a professional setting (e.g. as a contracted research assistant, for a commercial product, etc.)
  • Experience with thrust chamber manufacturing and design for manufacturability
  • Experience with thrust chamber testing and engine firing
  • Full engineering lifecycle experience (design trade, CAD design, prototyping, manufacturing, testing, qualification, production, reuse)
  • Experience at a nimble engineering organization or in a highly technical position that required a scrappy, entrepreneurial manner to accomplish tasks with tight time or budget constraints
  • Strong understanding of thermodynamics, compressible and incompressible flow, heat transfer, structures, and metallic material science
  • Experience with thrust chamber design and analysis (e.g. thermal/fluid CFD, structural analysis via hand calcs and FEA, fatigue/fracture mechanics)
  • Professional experience using Siemens NX (Unigraphics) and ANSYS strongly preferred, Fluent or other comparable CFD package also desirable
  • Great attitude in the face of extreme technical and schedule challenges
  • Demonstrated track record of excellent academic and professional achievement
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills, with both internal and external customers
  • Ability to deliver against an aggressive schedule, without sacrificing safety or reliability


  • Willingness to travel to McGregor, TX in support of testing, and to Cape Canaveral, FL and Vandenberg, CA in support of launching and refurbishing
  • Willingness to work extended hours and weekends as needed to resolve critical technical issues
  • Ability to pass Air Force background check for Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg sites


Pay range:

Propulsion Engineer/Senior: $125,000.00 - $175,000.00/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 and long-term disability insurance, life insurance, paid parental leave, and various other discounts and perks. You may also accrue 3 weeks of paid vacation and 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.