SpaceX reportedly bought two oil rigs — with which the company will launch and land its futuristic Starship vehicle on missions to Mars — which Elon Musk named Phobos and Deimos, after the Red Planet's little moons, according to an initial report from Forbes.
Elon Musk's SpaceX allegedly buys two oil rigs for future Starship launches
Starship is SpaceX's sleek new rocket created to eventually lift a maximum of 100 humans per trip to Mars. Several prototypes of the vehicle are under development at the company's Boca Chica site in Texas — and in December 2020 the SN8 version soared to the highest altitude yet.
UPDATE Jan. 19, 12:33 PM EST: Twitter users discover oil rigs in Texas named after Mars' moons
We've known of Elon Musk's intentions for SpaceX to carry out launches and landings of Starship from the mobility of ocean platforms — which enables them to operate globally — since Elon Musk first tweeted about it last June.
SpaceX is building floating, superheavy-class spaceports for Mars, moon & hypersonic travel around Earth https://t.co/zLJjz43hKw— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 16, 2020
However, Twitter users discovered a few recent purchases of SpaceX — acquisitions suggesting the company might have already taken Musk's plans to the next level. Via Twitter, launch photographer Jack Beyer said he'd seen an oil rig at the Port in Brownsville, Texas — named Deimos, possibly after one of Mars' quaint moons.
I've been exploring around the Port of Brownsville while waiting for Starship testing and found an oil rig that appears to be named Deimos, after one of the moons of Mars! Based on job postings and @elonmusk's tweets, I'm willing to bet that SpaceX is involved. @NASASpaceflight pic.twitter.com/zhTOGNnZKd— Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer) January 19, 2021
"Based on job postings and [Elon Musk's] tweets, I'm willing to bet that SpaceX is involved," tweeted Beyer.
SpaceX got these rigs for $3.5 million apiece. The previous owner of the rigs had filed for bankruptcy.https://t.co/UphEdqPJwO— Michael Baylor (@nextspaceflight) January 19, 2021
UPDATE Jan. 19, 12:45 PM EST: SpaceX bought two oil rigs for $3.5 million each
Another journalist — Michael Baylor from NASASpaceflight.com quickly spoke on the story, and said SpaceX had purchased the two oil rigs previously called ENSCO 8500 and ENSCO 8501, for $3.5 million apiece, tweeted Baylor.
Following up on @thejackbeyer's find, I can confirm that Deimos and Phobos are the names of two oil rigs purchased by SpaceX – likely for conversion to support Starship operations.— Michael Baylor (@nextspaceflight) January 19, 2021
ENSCO 8500 and ENSCO 8501 were the previous names of the rigs. They are nearly identical twins.
Their names were changed to "Phobos" and "Deimos" in September 2020, according to another tweet from Baylor.
UPDATE Jan. 19, 12:55 PM EST: Buying firm connected to SpaceX's CFO Bret Johnsen, no word from SpaceX, Musk
A company called Lone Star Mineral Development LLC bought the oil rigs last year — which another user connected to SpaceX's CFO Bret Johnsen.
I found that Lone Star Mineral Development LLC has 1 principal on the record, he is Bret Johnsen (source: https://t.co/5ypQoenvdb)— Khaled Zoubi (@KhaledZoubi) January 19, 2021
Apparently Bret is CFO & President of Strategic Acquisitions Group at SpaceX according to his LinkedIn page (https://t.co/obc5A6g2vr)
While neither SpaceX nor Musk has offered public comment on the potential purchase of two oil rigs, it's not an unlikely move for the billionaire, or his company. Knowing Musk's tendency to give SpaceX property unconventional names makes this fit the profile even more.
UPDATE Jan. 19, 2:00 PM EST: Musk's strange naming habits, refurbishing oil rigs for Starship launches
SpaceX's floating barges — on which Falcon 9 rockets make ocean landings — are called Of Course I Still Love You and Just Read The Instructions, named with reference to starships in books authored by the sci-fi writer Iain M. Banks.
If the oil rigs are really the property of SpaceX, we shouldn't be surprised to hear of their imminent refurbishing for forthcoming Starship missions. Naturally, countless eyes will be on the former oil rigs — to witness the first Starship launch.