Sunday, November 29, 2015

12-year-old's career: Ready for blast-off

An aspiring aerospace engineer from West Chester is likely to rocket to success if his current career path continues.

12-year-old's career: Ready for blast-off

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Elon Musk (left) vists with Brandon Smoot, a 7th-grader at Devon Prep.

An aspiring aerospace engineer from West Chester is likely to rocket to success if his current career path continues.

Brandon Smoot, a 7th-grader at Devon Prep Middle School, was doing online research so he could design a two-stage hybrid/solid-fueled mini rocket when he found a company called Space Exploration and Technology Corporation (SpaceX), (, school officials said.  SpaceX is a leading American space transport company, advancing space technology through its Falcon launch vehicles and Dragon spacecraft. 

The more Brandon learned about the company - even copying one of its engine designs - the more intrigued he became with the company’s CEO/CTO and chief rocket designer, Elon Musk, who is also the founder of PayPal, the Zip2 Corporation, and Tesla Cars. 

Brandon decided he wanted to meet Musk, and so the 12-year-old penned a letter in February. “I sent Mr. Musk some of my own rocket designs and requested a visit to one of their offices.  The company wrote me back, sent me some SpaceX gifts, and an invitation to come out to their corporate office in Hawthorne, Ca., to meet Mr. Musk,” Brandon said. “It was too good to be true."

But, true it was, and Brandon, his father Gregory, and his younger  brother Dylan traveled to southern California and the SpaceX headquarters  in late summer. He met Musk, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, and several key SpaceX employees. The main topic of discussion: rockets.  

 Brandon, who hopes to launch a rocket-building career someday, would like to make space travel affordable for the average person. He said SpaceX representatives encouraged him to consider an internship with them when he reaches college age. "I think I’d like to do that,” he said.


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About this blog
Aubrey Whelan covers Chester County for the Inquirer. A native of a Philadelphia suburb so small it doesn't have a zip code, she grew up reading the Inquirer and was thrilled to take a job there in fall 2012. Previously, she covered crime, courts and D.C.'s Occupy movement for the Washington Examiner. Aubrey graduated from Penn State in 2011, where she worked for the award-winning campus newspaper and majored in journalism and French. Contact her at 215-495-5855 or You can also follow her on Twitter at

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