London, Friday, 17 February 2023
According to a top official who spoke to reporters last week, commercial space launch company SpaceX has put on hold its plans to turn two offshore drill rigs into floating launch pads for its new Starship rocket system.
Although she left the door open to future sea-based launch alternatives once the system is in operation, SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell told the media at a press conference that the two rigs were "not the ideal platform" for conducting space launch operations at sea.
The idea of a sea launch has been successfully applied in the past, and it makes business sense in some situations. Location has an impact on orbital launch trajectories, and a sea-based launch gives the operator the flexibility to choose the launch site that will maximise efficiency and payload. For 15 years, the space business Sea Launch launched Zenit rockets made in Ukraine using a used MODU.
SpaceX made the decision to follow suit in 2020 and purchased the Valaris ultradeep water rigs Ensco 8500 and Ensco 8501. They were moved to the port of Brownsville, where the Starship test site is located, and given the new names Phobos and Deimos.
The two rigs have been sold to new owners after that idea was abandoned. SpaceX will now concentrate on developing rockets.
As for how to launch it, Shotwell stated, "We really need to fly this vehicle to comprehend it and to get to know this machine.
The Starship from SpaceX is a reusable, stainless-clad super-heavy orbital launch vehicle intended for long-distance missions, such as dreams to visit Mars. In May 2021, the 15th prototype finished the first Starship high-altitude test, and last month, SpaceX filed papers for its first test flight of an orbital route.
(Written and edited by: The Decision Maker – Maritime editors)