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Elon Musk says SpaceX developing offshore spaceports

Paul Best

SpaceX’s vision for travel to the moon, Mars and hypersonic travel around Earth will involve floating launch pads in the ocean, CEO Elon Musk said Tuesday.

“SpaceX is building floating, superheavy-class spaceports for Mars, moon & hypersonic travel around Earth,” Musk tweeted.

SpaceX is hiring offshore operations engineers at its Brownsville, Texas, location to “work as part of a team of engineers and technicians to design and build an operational offshore rocket launch facility.”

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Musk is known for his bold proclamations of establishing bases on the moon and Mars for interplanetary travel, but “the hypersonic travel around Earth” that he imagines could be more immediately impactful, slashing the amount of time it takes to travel vast distances. He said Tuesday the "first earth to earth test flights might be in 2 or 3 years."

SpaceX has been toying with the idea of ocean launchpads for a while. In November, Musk said that “frequent daily flights” would “probably” require spaceports that are about 20 miles offshore.

The company already uses an “autonomous spaceport droneship,” which is a modified barge outfitted with a landing platform and other equipment to allow SpaceX to land rocket boosters at sea.

SpaceX made history in May when it became the first private company to launch humans into orbit, sending two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station aboard its Crew Dragon spacecraft.

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After the Crew Dragon spacecraft detached from the Falcon 9 rocket on that launch, the rocket’s booster made its way back down to earth and landed on SpaceX’s East Coast droneship, which is called “Of Course I Still Love You.”

A key part of SpaceX’s business model is its dependence on these reusable spacecraft, which notably cuts the cost of space travel.

The company plans to send four private space tourists into orbit between late 2021 to mid-2022.

SpaceX was not immediately available for comment.

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