Elon Musk,the billionaire who’s working on going to Mars, and even start colonising the planet, has decided to buy a slew of oil rigs in order to convert them into rocket landing sites. Two rigs in the port of Brownsville were lying idle as the owner, Valaris had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The pair of rigs was purchased in July 2020 by limited liability corporation Lone Star Mineral Development, according to public records. Lone Star Mineral Development was incorporated in June 2020 and registered in the name of SpaceX CFO Bret Johnsen.
Elon Musk is converting old rigs into spaceports for missions to Mars, Moon, and around the earth
The oil rigs are in the Port of Brownsville, which is close by to SpaceX’s Starship development facility in Boca Chica, Texas. After it was acquired by SpaceX, they were renamed Deimos and Phobos after the moons on Mars.
It is said that those oil rigs will be used as spaceports for SpaceX’s Starship which is the rocket that will send cargo as well as people for future missions to the moon, to Mars, and beyond.
SpaceX is building floating, superheavy-class spaceports for Mars, moon & hypersonic travel around Earth https://t.co/zLJjz43hKw
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 16, 2020
The starship is SpaceX’s top priority, with SpaceX flying its most recent prototype, the SN8 to its highest altitude yet during a test flight in December. The Starship prototype launched to about 40,000 feet and completed several development objectives, despite exploding on impact when it attempted to land.
SpaceX has long been hinting at future floating launch and landing sites for their Starship launch system. The super heavy lift launch vehicle will have a large blast danger area and pose noise concerns if launched frequently near populated areas. Therefore, sea launch platforms will play a key role in the launch cadence SpaceX plans to reach with Starship, including on-orbit refuelling flights for deep space missions and transportation from one place to another on Earth.
Musk also said that the offshore spaceports won’t exactly hug the coastline.
“We need to be far enough away so as not to bother heavily populated areas. The launch & landing are not subtle. But you could get within a few miles of the spaceport in a boat,” he said in another tweet that same day.
The Port of Brownsville is home to a handful of oil drilling rigs, as drilling operations are regularly conducted in the Gulf of Mexico. One rig in port was photographed by NASASpaceflight before and after a sign with the name Deimos was added in recent months.
Photographs of the same rig showed that it was previously named ENSCO 8500, owned and operated by offshore drilling company Ensco Rowan PLC.
Ensco Rowan merged and became Valaris PLC in 2019. The rig, then named Valaris 8500, was sold with another rig named Valaris 8501 to an undisclosed buyer in August 2020 when Valaris filed for bankruptcy. The two rigs sold for $3.5 million each, and as it turns out, the undisclosed buyer was SpaceX.
Twitter user Jack Beyer had said that he saw the rigs being named Deimos and Phobos and believed those rigs were bought by SpaceX
I've been exploring around the Port of Brownsville while waiting for Starship testing and found an oil rig that appears to be named Deimos, after one of the moons of Mars! Based on job postings and @elonmusk's tweets, I'm willing to bet that SpaceX is involved. @NASASpaceflight pic.twitter.com/zhTOGNnZKd
— Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer) January 19, 2021
Elon Musk in a reply said that he confirms Jack’s findings that the oil rigs have been purchased by SpaceX.
Following up on @thejackbeyer's find, I can confirm that Deimos and Phobos are the names of two oil rigs purchased by SpaceX – likely for conversion to support Starship operations.
ENSCO 8500 and ENSCO 8501 were the previous names of the rigs. They are nearly identical twins.
— Michael Baylor (@nextspaceflight) January 19, 2021
SpaceX has been publicly hiring for offshore operations positions since last year, when the company posted that it was building “a team of engineers and technicians to design and build an operational offshore rocket launch facility.”
Additionally, as of midday Tuesday there were two temporary offshore positions currently available in Brownsville listed on the company’s career website. One of those two positions is for an electrician and asks that candidates be able to “install enhancements and major upgrades to offshore vessel electrical systems.”