Published on January 25, 2021 |
By Jennifer Censiba
January 25, 2021 by Jennifer Censiba
In previous articles, we covered that SpaceX purchased two offshore oil rigs, with plans to modify them into floating launch and landing facilities for Starship. We then covered Riggs’ locations, history and more. When I wrote that last one, we knew that the ENSCO 8500 (aka DeMoss) was in Brownsville Harbor, but we were not 100% sure where the 8501 / Phobos was. We knew it was in Galveston until recently, but had possibly moved on.
Thanks to our readers, we now know where Phobos is.
A reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, exposes the rigging in Pascagoula, Mississippi. It is currently parked at the VT Halter Marine facility at approximately 30.341292, -88.511511. To verify the identity of the rig, one of the readers shared a close up photo of the rig, which showed his identity.
Do we not know whether the rig is passing through the bus or if it is to be worked on further.
Why park there?
The VT Halter is certainly capable of modification SpaceX will require the rig. It is a subsidiary of an engineering firm, and specializes in shipbuilding. Its previous clients include private companies, oil firms and the Department of Defense. Notable projects include the US Coast Guard’s upcoming Polar Safety Cutter, Naval Auxiliary Personnel Lighters and the giant natural gas ship.
Google Maps has 3D views of the facility, and shows that its dock in Pascagoula is frequented by oil spills. It does not advertise Riggs construction, but a reader familiar with the facility tells us that the ship and Riggs often stop for work, and sometimes simply dock to resume.
Which leads us to the second possibility here. The Phobos may be in another location, perhaps Florida, and only stopping for a pause in Mississippi. In addition, it is possible that the rig may have done some of its work in Florida or Boca Chica before it was done in Mississippi to complete the rest.
How do these rigs work?
As we stated in a previous article, the ENSCO 8500 series leaks are semi-submersible. They do not sit atop a tower or long legs, instead swim atop large penguins. As you can see in our reader’s picture above, Phobos has spent a lot of time sitting deep in the water. This water can be pumped in or out by pumping in or out, or the rig can be lowered or lowered, and these types of leaks are usually lifted to a high place to move.
When moving things along the coast, it is not necessary to go into the deep waters of the bay, with waves and storms. If you zoom in on the coast in Google Maps or Google Earth, you can see the intracoastal waterway. The waterway is a series of artificial canals, inlets, and all tied together, providing all the safe passage from Boston, Massachusetts to Brownsville, Texas. There was a possibility of pulling Phobos along the banks of this waterway from Gabveston to Mississippi, and would likely lead the waterway to Brownsville or Florida.
Riggs sometimes rotate under their own power, but it is slow and complex in most cases. In this case, we know that Phobos was pulled into the dock by two tugbots, and possibly moved along the ICW by a single tug.
Once in place, the semi-submersible are part of the “sink” by pumping back into the water pumps. The advantage of sitting deep in the water is that the bulk of the pantons is under the waves, making the rig much more stable. To stay in one location, cables are typically used to tie the rig to an anchor placed on the seabed, but they can also remain using thrusters or a combination of anchoring and thrusters.
What will happen next?
It is still what we know very little about. It is possible that work could be done in Mississippi for the rocket to change from an oil rig to a landing / landing facility, or all parts of this work could be elsewhere.
Most likely the next locations will be either Brownsville or Florida. Work on 8500 / Deimos is already underway at Brownspill, but Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral have SpaceX facilities near the coast. Previous work on the Starship in Florida did not go well and was scrapped, but it is possible that the company wanted a second facility to work on space transportation.
Given SpaceX’s plan to launch and land starships in many locations around the world, it eventually requires many more floating spaceports. The Earth-to-Earth mission for transportation will likely take people from big cities to other big cities, and do not have real estate to build safe launch facilities in large cities where people will not be bothered by noise and strong light. . In most cases the only viable option would be to swim outside the sea or on a large lake if someone is nearby.
This is exactly what SpaceX shows in an earlier version of a starship promotional video. Passengers first board the boat to facilitate floating launch and landing, located some distance from New York City. Next, they launch into space and can reach most other cities within 30 minutes.
There are only seven of the ENSCO 8500 series in existence, with at least half still being used for oil production. To meet its goals, the company would need hundreds or thousands of floating facilities. Using existing floating rigs is likely to usher in a new industry without the learning curve of building a floating spaceport from scratch.
SpaceX may take up construction of its floating facilities in-house, but it can be easy to work with existing shipbuilders to go into mass production. We have not known for some time, and SpaceX can still decide how to improve future production.
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