SpaceX is planning to launch and land its next-generation Starship rocket on an ocean-based spaceport as early as next year.
Starship could one day carry up to 100 crew members to the moon, Mars, and beyond. The powerful launch vehicle may also be used for city-to-city travel, bringing global cities closer together than ever before.
The private spaceflight company’s initial aim is to build two floating spaceports called Deimos and Phobos, named after Mars’ moons.
Responding to a fan’s tweet that included an image of how the spaceport might look, SpaceX chief Elon Musk confirmed that construction is already underway on Deimos.
Ocean spaceport Deimos is under construction for launch next year https://t.co/WJQka399c7
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 30, 2021
The spaceports are being built on oil rig apparatus purchased in 2020 for a total of $7 million from Valaris, the world’s largest owner of offshore rigs.
Musk’s desire to use SpaceX hardware — including rockets, spacecraft, and floating platforms — for city-to-city travel first came to light during an appearance at the International Astronautical Congress in Australia in 2017. The SpaceX CEO said at the time the system would allow passengers to “fly to most places on Earth in under 30 minutes and anywhere in under 60,” adding that a seat would cost the same as an economy fare on a conventional flight.
The company also released an animation showing off the plan.
To make SpaceX Mars missions and city-to-city travel a reality, the company has been performing high-altitude test flights of its Starship vehicle in the hope of sending it on its first orbital flight in the coming months.
But testing has been hard going. Three of the first five high-altitude flights ended in fireballs when Starship landed too heavily at the end of its short trip, while the fourth exploded several minutes after making what at first appeared to be a decent landing. However, its fifth and most recent flight, which took place in early May, landed safely and stayed intact, giving the team a huge boost as it works to perfect Starship’s flight system.
For its upcoming orbital flight, Starship will launch atop SpaceX’s in-development Super Heavy rocket. It’s this two-stage, reusable system that SpaceX says will one day transport humans to Mars, and also make possible its global transportation system.
Job listings posted by SpaceX last year suggest the team tasked with building the spaceports is based in Brownsville, Texas, near SpaceX’s Starship test site in Boca Chica. There is still much work and testing to be done before Starship begins carrying crews and passengers, but Musk’s revelation that work is underway on the construction of its first-ever ocean spaceport shows that the company is edging toward its goal.