SpaceX Will Repurpose Oil Rigs To Build A Starship Spaceport At Sea

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SpaceX is planning to use oil rigs to build a Starship Spaceport at sea in South Texas. Tesmanian reminded its readers the goal of SpaceX is to enable us to spread consciousness across the galaxy, and is working on Starship and its Super Heavy rocket booster for that purpose. Those rockets will have to launch from somewhere, so why not reuse oil rigs? I think this is extremely symbolic. SpaceX, which was founded by Elon Musk, is going to take something old that has caused a lot of environmental problems and use it to empower humanity.

This discovery came from both @NASAspaceflight and @SpacePadreIsle, which took photos of the oil rigs that SpaceX owned. These rigs will most likely be refurbished into a floating Starship spaceport and are located in the Port of Brownsville. Michael Baylor of also noticed and confirmed previously that SpaceX purchased the twin oil rigs from Valaris and named them Deimos and Phobos after the pair of moons orbiting Mars.

CNBC noted that the two deepwater oil rigs were purchased by SpaceX last year and are being converted into floating launchpads. According to public records, the Valaris “ultra-deepwater semi-submersible” oil rigs 8500 and 8501 were sold for $3.5 million each. Valaris, which is headquartered in Houston, is the world’s largest owner of offshore oil rigs. CNBC also pointed out that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August to lighten its heavy debt load.

The twin rigs were purchased in July last year by Lone Star Mineral Development, which was incorporated in June 2020 and registered in the name of SpaceX CFO Bret Johnsen.

As of Tuesday, SpaceX is hiring for two temporary offshore positions and one of those is for an electrician. SpaceX wants the candidates to be able to “install enhancements and major upgrades to offshore vessel electrical systems.”

Recycling Oil Rigs

Technically, I think the term is repurposing them, but the idea is the same. SpaceX is taking something that was used by the fossil-fuel industry and is repurposing it for its mission to make humanity a space-faring civilization.

Many may argue that SpaceX isn’t environmentally friendly since it uses quite a bit of jet fuel in its rocket launches, but the emissions are actually much smaller than many people think, and SpaceX broke new ground in the industry when it became the only rocket company to have created a reusable rocket.

SpaceX’s fully reusable Falcon Heavy rocket costs around $1,300 per kg of payload, while the NASA Space Shuttle costs around $60,000 per kg. Reusable rockets also cut down the resources required for the metal body of the rocket. Although SpaceX’s Falcon 9 uses around 440 tons of kerosene, Smithsonian Magazine noted that it has a 34% carbon content, which is a “drop in the ocean compared to global industrial emissions as a whole.”

SpaceX’s CEO, Elon Musk, cares about the environment and is focused on making sure his products have as little of a negative impact on our planet as possible. Elon Musk is also the CEO of Tesla, which creates electric vehicles to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy and solar panels to do the same. Furthermore, Musk has already started envisioning zero-emissions rockets.

SpaceX is doing its part to ensure that creating rockets isn’t as harsh on the environment as it has been in the past, and when you add recycling oil rigs into the mix, it shows the company’s passion for reusing the old when possible. And note that decommissioning oil rigs is costly.

Decommissioning Oil Rigs Is Costly

In 2019, The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) published an article on what happens to decommissioned oil rigs. These are some of the largest structures that humanity has ever built, ASME  pointed out, and there are more than 7,500 of these structures looming over the world’s seas. However, producers can’t just walk away once the wells dry up — they have to be decommissioned and capped off. And the platforms have to be taken down. ASME noted that in Europe’s North Sea, decommissioning could cost producers $150 billion.

Usually, a takedown starts with dismantling the top platform, according to Christ Mattingly, who is a project manager at Bluegrass, which specializes in non-explosive demolition. This means cutting concrete and metal structures with diamond-studded saws. “It starts out with a crew of welders and they take down as much of the top side as they can,” Mattingly said. “Then we get involved with our diamond wire saws, cutting steel members and piping, to get the topsides off — which is everything you see above water.”

Mattingly also pointed out that in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s often shallow enough to use a diver to mount a saw on the metal or concrete struts with a hydraulic clamp to keep it in place. An operator controls the cut by regulating the hydraulic power while aboard a boat. “In the Gulf of Mexico, often the water is shallow enough that you can use a diver,” he told ASME. “Anything deeper than 300 feet requires a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, essentially a small submarine.” You can read more about the technical details of how oil rigs are decommissioned here.

Final Thoughts

Choosing to recycle oil rigs is something I’d never even thought of — and probably many others haven’t as well. As an average citizen who works from home and lives a peaceful life with her gem collection and two rambunctious cats, I’ve never even thought much about oil rigs.

I grew up in Louisiana and have heard the phrase “My husband/father/family member is going back down to the Gulf to work on the rigs” a million times, but it never really crossed my mind that they eventually dry up. I’ve never even thought about what happens to the rigs when they are done. And I’m sure it’s the same for millions of other Americans.

This shows how Elon Musk and his team of engineers are always thinking outside the box. Who would have thought about making oil rigs into spaceports? Elon Musk, naturally.

Featured images in tweet screenshot by SPadre.

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Johnna Crider

Johnna owns less than one share of $TSLA currently and supports Tesla's mission. She also gardens, collects interesting minerals and can be found on TikTok

Johnna Crider has 1996 posts and counting. See all posts by Johnna Crider