SpaceX Plans Floating Ocean Spaceport for 2022

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It has now been more than a year since SpaceX launched its first crewed Falcon 9 mission to the ISS, but the Falcon 9 isn’t Elon Musk’s vision of the future. That honor goes to the Starship, which SpaceX has been very publicly testing (and blowing up). The company is still riding high on the successful landing of the SN15 prototype, which landed in one piece last month. Now, Musk has let it slip that SpaceX is beginning construction of its first off-shore launch platform. 

The news comes, unsurprisingly, from Musk’s Twitter account. The SpaceX founder and CEO took a break from talking about Dogecoin to confirm that his company has started building its first sea platform. According to Musk, the floating spaceport will be known as Deimos after one of Mars’ moons. However, Deimos is also a Roman god representing panic or terror before a battle. Not the most inspiring name for a spaceport. 

The Falcon 9 is no stranger to the ocean. Many SpaceX launches end with the first-stage landing propulsively on a drone ship, which can travel to the most convenient location to meet up with the rocket. Deimos, which will allegedly open for launches next year, will be key to the other end of the voyage. The modified oil drilling platform will serve as a launchpad for Starship rockets; SpaceX first showed off the concept in a 2017 video featuring Earth transport with Starship rockets, but that’s not all these rigs will be good for. With the Super Heavy first-stage, the Starship will be able to launch from these platforms and carry heavy payloads into orbit and to distant locations like the moon and Mars. 

As you might expect, Deimos is not the only platform in SpaceX’s plans. In 2020, SpaceX bought a pair of Valaris semi-submersible drilling rigs — one named Deimos and the other Phobos after the smaller moon of Mars. The structures have a main deck measuring 240 ft (73 m) by 255 ft (78 m) and can operate in water as deep as 8,500 feet when configured as oil rigs. However, SpaceX probably won’t need any of that drilling equipment, and we can only speculate about where they might be deployed. Both Deimos and Phobos are in port for refitting, which is the “construction” Musk vaguely referenced in his tweet. 

We don’t have any specifics on the construction timeline beyond Musk’s vague “next year” promise. Successfully completing a few floating spaceports could put SpaceX even further ahead of its competition. Of course, the Starship has to live up to its name first — it has yet to reach orbit. SpaceX hopes to complete the rocket’s first orbital flight as soon as next month.

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