Thursday 21 January 2021 3:42 pm

Elon Musk to turn oil rigs into floating SpaceX launchpads

It’s usual practice for astronauts to splashdown in the water on their return from space, but up until now they’ve at least been able to take off from solid ground.

However, this could all be about to change, after it was reported that billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has bought two oil rigs to be converted into floating launch platforms for SpaceX rockets.

The rigs, which were originally designed for offshore deepwater drilling, are currently being fitted out as launchpads in the Texan port town of Brownsville.

They have been renamed Deimos and Phoibos, seemingly after two of the moons of Mars – on which the billionaire has predicted humans will be standing in 2026.

Lone Star Mineral Development – a company registered to SpaceX finance chief Bret Johnsen – bought the two rigs for $3.5bn each from offshore firm Valaris last year.

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The purchase was first reported by Nasa Spaceflight, and comes after Musk last summer revealed that plans for a floating launch facility.

The Port of Brownsville is near SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility, where it is currently developing the new Starship programme.

The model is one of three designs receiving NASA funding as part of the initial stages of the Artemis programme, which aims to put a man and a woman on the moon by 2024.

SpaceX is planning on building up to 1,000 of the rockets are planned over the next 10 years.