PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WKRG) – SpaceX will not launch rockets from the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the near future, the company’s president says.
Two oil rigs had been docked at the Port of Pascagoula for the past two years to be fitted by SpaceX to serve as launch pads for its Starship spacecraft.
SpaceX bought the oil rigs from Valaris for around $7 million in July 2020, weeks before it filed for bankruptcy during a market crash that sent oil prices in the negatives. The ENSCO 8500-series ships were built for about $560 million each in the late 2000s.
The company, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, had been planning to convert the rigs into launch platforms for its Starship vehicle to launch to the moon, Mars and hypersonic travel around Earth.
Phobos arrived at the Port of Pascagoula in January 2021 from Brownsville, Texas. Deimos docked in March 2022. The vessels are named after the two moons of Mars.
In an August 2021 video with content creator Everyday Astronaut, Musk said converting the oil rigs was experimental and not a top priority.
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told reporters at the Federal Aviation Administration Commercial Space Transportation Conference Feb. 8 that the company was shelving plans for launches at sea for now, according to Space News.
“We bought them. We sold them. They were not the right platform,” she said.
Shotwell said SpaceX needed to test launch and better understand Starship before building offshore launch platforms, but expected to return to the idea later to support the company’s vision of frequent rocket launches.
“We have designed Starship to be as much like aircraft operations as we possibly can get it,” she said. “We want to talk about dozens of launches a day, if not hundreds of launches a day.”
The current record for any rocket family is 61 launches in one year.
The Starship launch pad at the SpaceX facility in Boca Chica, Texas has permission from FAA and state regulations to be used up to five times per year. The company is building another Starship launch site at Kennedy Space Center that is cleared for 24 launches per year.
Shotwell said the ship will eventually require many launch pads, leaving open the possibility of giant floating launch pads in the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The Port of Pascagoula’s daily shipping report lists Deimos as scheduled to leave the port on Feb. 20 with Phobos following on March 12. Details on where the ships will go or who they were sold to is not publicly available.