Why on Earth would SpaceX purchase oil rigs? Why, to convert them into seagoing launch platforms, that’s why… especially as such edifices can trim costs as trajectories for launch vehicles are heavily influenced by the location of the rocket liftoffs and oil rigs have a certain mobility as far as “settling in” is concerned.
Offering offshore drilling services across the globe, Valaris, who last August declared bankruptcy, sold two rigs — an Ensco 8500 and one Ensco 8501 — to a subsidiary of SpaceX. These rigs are currently positioned at the Brownsville, Texas, port and, according to sources, have been renamed by SpaceX as Deimos and Phobos.
Certainly a hint of this probably occurring was when a social media posting by Elon Musk stated, “The firm’s most ambitious project – perhaps the most ambitious spaceflight project of any kind – is a reusable heavy launch rocket dubbed Starship, designed for operations up to and including manned missions to Mars. Starship’s R&D facility is located in Boca Chica Beach, Texas, just outside of Brownsville.”
Adding more fuel to the rig=>launchpad theory are SpaceX postings, also in social media, that the company is seeking staff who can design and build an operational offshore rocket launch facility and who have the ability to work on an offshore platform in Brownsville, Texas.
Apparently SpaceX paid in the neighborhood of $7 million for these two rigs, units that originally cost Valaris some $1 billion — a bargain in anyone’s book.