SpaceX founder Elon Musk has confirmed ambitious plans to build an “ocean spaceport” that will be used to launch a Starship rocket to Mars in 2022.
In July 2020, it was reported that the company had purchased a pair of former oil drilling rigs for $3.5 million (£2.47 million) each which they planned to convert into floating spaceports.
Musk retweeted a concept image of the ocean port, confirming that one of the platforms, named Deimos, after the smaller of the two Martian moons, is under construction “to launch next year.”
Starship is the massive reusable rocket and spacecraft under test in Texas, with the first orbital test scheduled for July and longer-range missions in 2022.
No specific details have been released on how much the refit of the platforms will cost, or when operations will begin, but it is believed that Starship will fly to the floating platforms on its own, before taking off for space.
Deimos is currently undergoing renovations at the Texas Port of Brownsville, but SpaceX or any of its partners have not disclosed details of its final destination.
However, it is thought that a fleet of floating ‘ocean spaceports’ operated by the company will eventually be placed within easy reach of major transport hubs, but far enough away to minimize risk and noise pollution near large populated areas.
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No specific details on how much the refit of the platforms will cost, or when operations will begin, have been released, but it is believed that Starship (pictured) will fly to the floating platforms on its own, before flying to space
SpaceX has ambitious plans to send the first unmanned flight to the Red Planet next year, a manned flight as early as 2024, and to have a settlement on Mars by 2050.
They also plan to use the Starship spacecraft to send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa on a trip around the moon, transporting passengers around the Earth.
The SN15 Starship prototype was the first to successfully take off, fly up six miles, turn to return, and then land safely back on the launch pad.
In January, it was reported that the company had purchased a pair of former oil rigs (not this one, just for illustration) for $3.5 million each.
This happened on May 5, and since then Musk has escalated plans a bit to launch to Mars next year, when the planet is more closely aligned with Earth.
First, the prototype must show that it can reach Earth orbit, come back through the fiery return of Earth’s atmosphere, and crash near Hawaii.
Future tests could include a controlled landing after coming out of orbit, as well as a takeoff from a floating ocean spaceport like Deimos.
Musk has previously tweeted that “SpaceX is building floating, super-heavy spaceports for Mars, moon and hypersonic travel around Earth.”
The spacecraft will fly from one port to another under its own power and be able to travel from one side of the Earth to the other in about half an hour, the company claims.
He first showed the use of these ports, likely near major coastal cities and transportation hubs, in 2017, and confirmed the purchase of two retired oil rigs in 2020 that would be converted to launch a spaceship atop a heavy rocket.
Lone Star Mineral Development, a subsidiary of SpaceX, bought the semi-submersible rigs in July 2020 for $3.5 million (£2.7 million), the report said.
Musk confirmed on Twitter that one of the platforms, dubbed Deimos after the smaller of the two Martian moons, was under construction “to launch next year.”
SpaceX has ambitious plans to send the first unmanned flight to the Red Planet next year, a manned flight as early as 2024, and to have a settlement on Mars by 2050
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM DEIMOS AND HOW BIG IS IT?
The smallest moon of Mars, Deimos, is named after the Greek mythological character for terror or fear.
Deimos has a strange shape and has more in common with an asteroid
- Diameter 7.8 miles
- Turnaround time: 30.35 hours
- Distance from Mars: 14,580 miles
- Discovered: August 12, 1877
- Slowly moving away from Mars
- Tide locked up on Mars
Originally named ENSCO/Valaris 8500 and 8501, SpaceX renamed them after the two moons of Mars – Phobos and Deimos.
The company moved Phobos to Pascagoula Mississippi and Deimos to the Texas Port of Galveston in January to be adapted for future Starship operations.
Musk hinted in February that the platforms could be “partially operational” by the end of this year, suggesting they could be used for future Starship test flights.
To reach Deimos or Phobos, Starship would fly into space from its test site in Boca Chica, Texas and land back on the launch pad in the sea.
Deimos will likely be the first to be operational in 2022 for full launch services.
Both platforms have a main deck measuring 240 ft by 255 ft and are designed to operate at ocean depths up to 8500 ft, with living quarters for 150 people.
SpaceX previously revealed that these platforms would allow it to operate a global network of “hysonic point-to-point travel” services.
This would allow Starships to take people from places like Beijing to New York in about 30 minutes, a flight that currently takes at least 18 hours.
Those Earth-to-Earth flights would operate from these platforms, as well as flights to other worlds such as the Moon and Mars.
The ocean platforms would help SpaceX allay any concerns about noise and the risk of a major explosion from the Super Heavy lift vehicle if it operates near populated areas.
Before that can happen, SpaceX must demonstrate that Starship can enter orbit, so it will be attached to the Super Heavy rocket in July and launched from Boca Chica into space.