SpaceX purchased former Valaris oil rigs to construct Starship launch pads

An 8500 series oil rig


Elon Musk’s SpaceX bought two deep-sea oil rigs last year and is converting them into floating launch pads to support the giant spacecraft rockets the company is developing.

The rigs are located in Brownsville Harbor near the Starship SpaceX development facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

The drilling rigs were renamed Deimos and Phobos, presumably in homage to the Martian moons.

Starship is the enormous rocket SpaceX is developing to reach Musk’s goal of launching cargo and up to 100 people simultaneously on missions to the moon and Mars.

The rocket is SpaceX’s top priority. SpaceX is flying its latest prototype to its highest altitude ever during a test flight in December. The Starship prototype took off at about 40,000 feet and met several development goals, although it exploded on impact upon impact.

The spacecraft prototype SN8 ignites its engines and takes off in Boca Chica, Texas.


Public records indicate that Valaris’ “Ultra-Deepwater Semi-Submersible” oil rigs 8500 and 8501 were sold for $ 3.5 million each. Valaris, headquartered in Houston, Texas, and the world’s largest owner of offshore oil rigs, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August to ease a heavy debt burden.

The pair of drill rigs were purchased by the limited liability company Lone Star Mineral Development in July 2020, according to public records. Lone Star Mineral Development was founded in June 2020 and registered on behalf of SpaceX CFO Bret Johnsen.

The SpaceX purchase and work on the oil rigs was first identified by reporters for NASASpaceflight, a space-focused website.

The company didn’t respond to a CNBC request for comment.

Shortly before founding Lone Star Mineral Development, Musk said in a tweet that SpaceX plans to build “super-heavy-class floating spaceports for Mars, lunar and hypersonic travel around the earth.”

SpaceX has been publicly hiring for offshore operations since last year when the company announced it was establishing “a team of engineers and technicians to design and build an operational offshore missile launch facility.”

In addition, two temporary offshore positions became available in Brownsville as of Tuesday lunchtime and are listed on the company’s careers website. One of these two positions is for an electrician and challenges candidates “to install improvements and major upgrades to electrical systems on offshore vessels”.

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