SpaceX pursues ocean spaceports for hypersonic Earth-to-Earth travel
SpaceX’s plans for deep-space travel get a lot of the headlines, but amid all the reusable rocketry and plans for Mars colonization, the company harbors ambitions that are a little closer to the home. After first floating the idea of using a massive spaceship to transport people around Earth at hypersonic speeds a few years ago, the company is now recruiting engineers to develop the floating off-shore spaceports to launch these super heavy-class vehicles, and possibly act as a springboard to Mars.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk first revealed plans of hypersonic travel around Earth in a 2017 presentation detailing his strategy for Mars colonization. The company’s BFR booster and Transport vehicle, as the Starship system was known at the time, could launch vertically with passengers onboard from New York, and land on an off-shore barge in Shanghai 30 minutes later, for example. Musk insisted at the time that this was more than just a concept, and has now signaled the company will indeed be moving ahead with the facilities to start testing out such transport technologies.
The CEO responded on Twitter to a job listing for a position as an “Offshore operations engineer” in Brownsville, Texas. The role would require the candidate to “work as part of a team of engineers and technicians to design and build an operational offshore rocket launch facility.”
Elaborating further, Musk said these facilities would “pretty much” be refurbished off-shore oil rigs and hinted at the possibility of Hyperloop transport back and forth. And with characteristic optimism, he said that test flights for Earth-to-Earth travel could kick off sooner rather than later, potentially coming in the next two or three years.
There will be many test flights before commercial passengers are carried. First Earth to Earth test flights might be in 2 or 3 years.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 16, 2020
While launching rockets from the ocean would be new territory for SpaceX, the company has been landing them on floating platforms at sea since 2016. Musk has also previously entertained the idea of using ocean barges to launch the booster stage of the Starship, confirming earlier this year that the company is pursuing this capability, along with more traditional launches from land-based facilities. Still, the job posting is a significant sign that the company is moving full steam ahead with these ambitions.