SpaceX Is Turning Two Oil Rigs Into Starship Launch Pads

Elon Musk’s floating spaceport dream just took a big step closer to becoming reality, after it was revealed that two disused oil rigs recently acquired by SpaceX are set to be converted into offshore launch pads.

SpaceX purchased the two rigs about six months ago, with the spaceflight company thought to be planning to turn them into floating, moveable bases from which they will eventually launch future Starship missions.

The oil rigs, which measure 240ft by 255ft and were originally used for offshore deepwater drilling, are currently docked in Brownsville, Texas, not too far from SpaceX’s Boca Chica headquarters where the Starship – a giant rocket that the company hopes will become the first to carry commercial passengers to the moon and, one day, Mars – is currently in development.

SpaceX bought the rigs from offshore drilling contractor Valaris in July of last year, with public records showing they were sold for $3.5 million each, CNBC reports. The rigs were officially purchased by Lone Star Mineral Development, a company registered just a month before the purchase by SpaceX chief financial officer Bret Johnson.

Although the somewhat covert deal suggests SpaceX is looking to keep its floating spaceport plans under wraps for the time being, Elon Musk has been vocal about his company’s goal of moving their launchpads offshore, announcing in a tweet last year that SpaceX was focusing on building ‘floating, superheavy-class spaceports for Mars, moon & hypersonic travel around Earth.’

Over the past year, several job ads have been spotted for offshore construction positions, with SpaceX saying its building ‘a team of engineers and technicians to design and build an operational offshore rocket launch facility’.

SpaceX already has three operational floating landing pads, or ‘droneships,’ which the company built from repurposed barges to serve as autonomous recovery vehicles for their reusable Falcon 9 boosters. The company currently launches its operational missions from the iconic Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and is working to convert its Boca Chica facility into what it describes as a ’21st century spaceport’ for future commercial launches, TechCrunch reports.

Appropriately for what SpaceX hopes will become the bases that will eventually launch humans to Mars, the two rigs have reportedly been named after the red planet’s two moons, Deimos and Phoibos. SpaceX hasn’t officially commented on its plans for the oil rigs, so there’s no indication of when they’ll be ready for action, but with Musk’s ambitious plan to launch a mission to Mars as early as 2026, it could be closer than we think.

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