SpaceX’s 7th hire to work with Elon Musk for 19 years

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  • SpaceX’s seventh hire Hans Koenigsmann spoke to Insider about working with Elon Musk.
  • Koenigsmann said Musk “expects a lot” from his staff and provided a “unique perspective” on physics.
  • Koenigsmann, who recently retired after 19 years at Space X, said he enjoyed working with Musk.

Elon Musk’s seventh hire at SpaceX said the billionaire businessman expects a lot from his staff – and it could be a “challenge.”

German aerospace engineer Hans Koenigsmann, former vice president of SpaceX, retired from the company in early October after 19 years there, after announcing in February his intention to leave.

During his time at SpaceX, Koenigsmann was in charge of several missions and launches. He worked for a few years on the company’s satellite Internet service, Starlink. He also participated in the company’s first all-civilian space mission, Inspiration4.

Koenigsmann was hired in 2002, the same year SpaceX was founded. Musk went to Koenigsmann to do the interview because SpaceX didn’t have an office – and at the start of the business, “we met in conference rooms at a hotel,” Koenigsmann said.

In an interview with Insider, Koenigsmann described his departure from SpaceX as “bittersweet.” He said he was sad to be leaving but also optimistic about starting a new chapter in his life after nearly 20 years with Musk’s aerospace group.

There was always a lot of work to do at SpaceX, Koenigsmann said: he worked evenings and weekends to catch up with his heavy workload. But he said he “never had a day that I went there and thought I didn’t want to do this job,” adding that he was always motivated and happy.

Musk “didn’t know much about rockets at the start, but he learned a lot over time,” Koenigsmann said. Musk quickly gained knowledge, which was “amazing to watch,” he added.

“I really enjoyed working with him and learning how he sees things,” Koenigsmann said. “He sees things from a different perspective.

Musk provided a “unique perspective” on scenarios involving basic physics by asking what the limiting factor was, according to Koenigsmann.

An example of this was when Musk pushed his engineers to shorten the time it takes to power SpaceX’s rockets. Musk said SpaceX should aim to reduce the time from 30 minutes to eight minutes – the same time it takes to empty a rocket tank, according to Koenigsmann.

SpaceX uses ultra-low-temperature propellant to increase its density, allowing engineers to cram more of it into each rocket, Insider reported previously. Rockets need to be energized quickly before launch so that the thruster does not heat up.

Due to Musk’s direction, SpaceX’s rockets are powered “in a remarkably short time,” Koenigsmann said.

Koenigsmann said that after announcing he was retiring, Musk wrote to him to let him know he could return to SpaceX to visit him and see Starbase, the city proposed by SpaceX in Boca Chica, Texas.

Koenigsmann is now a member of the board of directors of laser communication company Mynaric, headquartered in Munich, Germany.

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