The New Space Age

Winter 2019

Lately, there’s no shortage of news about SpaceX, the private aerospace company that is driving the future of space exploration. Since its founding in 2002, SpaceX has completed more than 60 rocket launches—including satellite launches for commercial companies and the United States government—and its Dragon spacecraft has flown numerous cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station.

Jonathan Hofeller ’02, vice president of commercial sales, and his team are responsible for securing an ever-growing share of the world’s multibillion-dollar launch market.

“We ensure that commercial customers, governments, and space agencies from around the world feel confident launching their payloads on SpaceX vehicles,” says Hofeller. “Though SpaceX has experienced enormous success, it’s still a relatively young launch provider in comparison to the other companies that operate within the space. That’s challenging, but it’s also an exciting part of my team’s mission.”

Hofeller has long been fascinated with all things space. In high school, he tried on his first spacesuit at the Space Academy in Alabama. After graduating from the Whiting School with a degree in mechanical engineering, he worked for Raytheon’s Space and Airborne Systems unit while attending graduate school at the University of Southern California.

In 2004, Hofeller discovered the “New Space” movement when he volunteered on the security team and witnessed the first flights of SpaceShipOne in the Mojave Desert, a major turning point for private spaceflight. Determined to be part of the movement, Hofeller attended the International Space University in Strasbourg, France, which led him to a career at SpaceX.

As for how a mechanical engineer ended up in sales, Hofeller says his engineering and problem-solving background helps him excel at doing business on a global scale.

“My team is largely composed of engineers,” says Hofeller, who sits on the Whiting School’s Department of Mechanical Engineering External Advisory Board. “We adopt a strategic approach to winning these deals for SpaceX. Each customer and mission is unique. We identify the known and unknown variables to piece together a solution that results in the highest probability of winning.”