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  • Industrial Archaeology: Aerojet’s Everglades Rocket Factory

    Posted by Jonathan on January 8th, 2007 (All posts by )

    In the 1960s the Aerojet company was considered* as the possible supplier of solid-fuel rocket motors to be used as primary power plants for the Saturn I space booster. The idea was to use a single, very large rocket motor in place of a cluster of smaller, though still large motors on the Saturn’s first stage.

    The first-stage motor (see also the photo of a test-firing on this page) was to be approximately 21 feet in diameter — so big that it could not be transported by road, rail or air. Aerojet therefore built a facility in the Florida Everglades, about forty miles South-Southwest of Miami and remote from residential areas, where the motors could be assembled and tested, and from there barged to the Atlantic Ocean and then up the coast to Cape Canaveral, where they launched the rockets. The State of Florida provided land and built the canal that Aerojet wanted. (A corporate-welfare boondoggle, yes, but probably a modest one in the grand scheme of such things.)

    [*Update: Rand Simberg was kind enough to link to this post. One of his commenters says that Werner Von Braun, designer of the Saturn I, never considered using a solid booster, and that Aerojet's Everglades plant was thus a self-inflicted boondoggle by the company. Another commenter provides a link to a website (search on the word "Thiokol") that provides information about a plant that Thiokol built in Georgia to develop rocket motors similar to the ones that Aerojet developed. At least one of the Encyclopedia Astronautica articles about Aerojet, to which I linked above, mentions Thiokol as a parallel developer of large solids. However, I don't know enough to evaluate this information, so I am putting it all out with the suggestion that you read the comments on Rand's post.]

    You can read the Encyclopedia Astronautica articles linked above to get a better idea of the project’s technical history. The short version is that NASA never did use Aerojet’s giant rocket motors, and Aerojet eventually gave up on its plant and sold the land back (nice trick) to the State of Florida, which holds it to this day as a nature preserve. Most of the original buildings associated with the plant, and some of the machinery, appear to be still there, albeit in decrepit condition. It’s accessible, though the last couple of miles of the access road are closed to motor vehicles, so if you want to visit you have to bicycle or walk part of the way. There are a few houses nearby, and people come to bird watch or to fish in the canal that parallels the road, but the place is essentially deserted once you get past the no-motor-vehicles-beyond-this-point sign.



    Near the North end of Aerojet Road, looking South.



    Aerojet ruins. (Does anyone know if the “youth farm” buildings were part of the Aerojet complex?)



    More ruins.



    Still more ruins. I have no idea what these buildings were used for.



    Canal adjacent to Aerojet Road (not the Aerojet Canal) with cute alligator.



    The big shed comes into view near the South end of Aerojet Road. This photo gives a good view of typical Florida savanna.



    Blockhouse at the end of the East-West road that leads to the shed. From the design and location of this structure I suspect it was used as a control room for rocket tests. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I am could comment.



    East-West road between blockhouse and shed.


    Shed, seen from West end of paved area.


    Garage for emergency vehicles, I assume.



    Watch your step.


    Location “B” (see the second-from-top Google Maps screen capture above). I don’t know what this is but it’s obviously intended to bear a huge load (from test-firing rockets?).


    Location “A”. Note the large cable saddle in the middle of the pic.


    Location “C”.


    Equipment or vehicle tie-down point near the shed.


    Looking West from shed toward blockhouse.


    Test firing of giant rocket motor. I can’t tell for sure but the shed in this photo appears to be the same one that’s still on the site, which gives an idea of the size of the rocket. Also, while I don’t know where the testing occurred relative to the structures that remain on the site, it appears that the pictured test may have been done in the area between points “A” and “B”, to the East of the shed. Another possibility is that the firing pit is under the shed, and that the shed was moved out of the way for tests. (Can anyone add to or correct this explanation?) (Photo courtesy Aerojet, via this page.)

    I visited the Aerojet ruins early last July, looked around for a few minutes, took some photos and left. The biting flies made it difficult to hang around, which is probably why the place was deserted. If you visit, try to go during the fall or winter, when there are fewer bugs, and bring repellent. It might also be a good idea to bring a friend, since this place is a bit away from the beaten track.

    If you are interested in seeing the Aerojet facility it might be a good idea to go soon, as the Florida climate is not conducive to long-term preservation. Also this area looks like prime residential real estate for any giant segmented-bodied space aliens that decide to take over our planet.

    While you’re in the neighborhood you can also visit (see the top Google image above):

    -Everglades National Park,

    -the fruit stand to end all fruit stands (here too),

    -a winery,

    -and the legendary Everglades Alligator Farm.

    Sensory overload! And you thought this part of the country was flat, featureless and tacky.

    Finally, the highest hill in South Florida towers like an Alp over the tomato fields and housing developments, just West of scenic Florida City:

    One takes what one can get.

    UPDATE (8/28/2007): In the comments, Krypton1976 is looking for the locations of several specific NIKE missile sites in the area.

     

    83 Responses to “Industrial Archaeology: Aerojet’s Everglades Rocket Factory”

    1. Dan from Madison Says:

      Outstanding post Jonathan, I always like a good photoessay…especially when it includes a good bike ride. Hopefully I will have several of these this year when it is warmer up here. We need the cold for a few months here in the upper Midwest to keep out the weak breeding stock as you know.

    2. John Says:

      “It might also be a good idea to bring a friend, since this place is a bit away from the beaten track.”

      My good friends Motorola and Samuel Colt, perhaps? Or do I need shortwave?

    3. Jonathan Says:

      Dan: Thanks!

      John: I would suggest carrying a gun that can kill flies.

    4. Anonymous Says:

      I remember speaking with a retired Aerojet engineer in the late 1980s about this plant, in regards the competition for Space Shuttle SRMs. He said that Aerojet had solved the problems of casting and storing single grain rocket motors of the SRM size.

      He said the solution for casting was to cast them at this plant, “right down by Homestead AFB”,and barge them to Kennedy.

      The solution he gave for storage was more intriguing. The problem with storage was the grain delaminating from the casing of a horizontally stored motor from the grain sagging, or the delamination from buckling of a vertically stored single grain, of that size and length. According to this gentleman, the solution was tested at Homestead. It was to store the motors in pits, at an angle of about 30 degrees from the horizontal, and slowly rotate them, so that no portion of casing/grain bonding stayed under stress too long at a time. He claimed to me that they’d stored a Shuttle-sized motor that way for a year, with no sign of delamination at the casing.

      Then, of course, NASA decided that the contract specs for the Shuttle motors would include their being segmented. That was the end for the Aerojet motor and plant. The Thiokol segmented motor could now be produced in Utah, and shipped in segments by rail to Kennedy. Nixon could pay off his political debt to Jake Garn. No one thought then that EPA would demand that the specs for the O-Ring bonding/filler compound keeping the segments from leaking hot gas should be changed to exclude the asbestos originally specified, with the substitute having a far higher minimum temperature limit. Then, we got to January 1986.

      Could anyone hunt around Homestead for some oddly slanted, and very long pits, canted about 30 degrees from the horizontal? It’d be interesting to see if that’s still there!

      Regards,

      Tom Billings
      Oregon L-5 Society

    5. Jonathan Says:

      Tom,

      Thanks for this interesting information. Any open pits of such large size in this area would probably collect water and otherwise be a hazard, so if they exist they may have been filled or capped. I’ll keep an eye out if I visit the site again, as I may do within the coming months. But it’s a big plot of land, so even if such storage pits exist they may not be immediately obvious.

      I would encourage anyone who is interested to spend some time looking at aerial views of the Aerojet site on Google Maps, using the highest magnification. A lot more detail is visible in these views than is reproduced in my screen captures of Google’s images.

    6. Tatyana Says:

      Wow, what an interesting comment, Tom.
      I’m unfamiliar with aerospace terms; can you explain what “grain” is? Am I right thinking it has something to do with physical motor enclosure (i.e. laminated multilayered metal sheets, possibly hot-dyed?), and not the “unit of propellant”, as the dictionary tells me?
      What happened in Jan.1986?
      1986, in my mind, triggers April 29: Chernobyl.

      Speaking of which…J, it’s a swampy area – could there be a fog? Like the low-floating, sometimes milky sometimes transparent turbulances. Stalker.

    7. Jonathan Says:

      -I think that by “grain” Tom does indeed mean propellant.

      -January 1986 was when first Space Shuttle accident, caused by failure of solid rocket motor, occurred.

      -I haven’t seen fog but I think it probably occurs.

      -But not like: “Near a gray and unnamed city is the Zone, an alien place guarded by barbed wire and soldiers.” Here it is much friendler. (Maybe the soldiers are fishing?)

    8. Tatyana Says:

      Oh but much more poetic.

      [I'll have to read more on the subject on propellants]

    9. wade Says:

      Reminds me of the popular net story of the Thiokol engine size being determined by the width of a horses ass

      http://www.snopes.com/history/american/gauge.htm

    10. flurbex Says:

      this is stolen from antother guy…you did not write this or go here

    11. flurbex Says:

      you stole this from here

      http://the26thparallel.blogspot.com/2007/01/industrial-archaeology-aerojets.html

      jackass

    12. Jonathan Says:

      Flurbex,

      I appreciate your vigilence, but please consider the possibility that the same person posted this piece on two different blogs.

    13. flurbex Says:

      thats just as bad….all of the info needs to be removed. obviously the author doesnt care about the 260 rocket because if he did, he wouldnt broadcast the site directions to the world. as if one site was bad enough, he duplicated it here too.

      you all will be sorry when you finally decide to go down into the silo and see that tons of others went down and spray painted the rocket. when that happens, i will blame him and everyone else for encouraging him and condoning his choices.

    14. Jonathan Says:

      Instead of looking to assign blame, maybe you should ask yourself whether secrecy is the best way to protect the rocket site. It’s obvious that many people already know about the place. It’s also obvious that there are lots of other valuable sites in our society that are vulnerable to vandalism and yet are rarely vandalized, even though their owners go out of their way to publicize their locations (shopping centers and national parks, for example).

      Perhaps a better way to protect the Aerojet site would be to encourage public interest in it and thereby create a political incentive for its owner, the state of Florida, to treat it as a valuable property that is worth guarding and preserving. We don’t close national parks to reduce vandalism. Surely there are better ways to protect this site than to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

    15. astro Says:

      Fascinating post. I stumbled upon the Aerojet and NASA sites on my own while doing personal research about local color in South Florida, and really wanted to learn more. These sites are tops! Now, I may have (or may not have — depends who’s reading lol) actually been there myself and would be plenty willing to take shots and whatever video and run reconnaisance (e.g., for the pits mentioned above) that folks may be interested in. I have explored (or maybe not lol) what’s labeled as the NASA test facility — the largest of the collection — and biking down to the AeroJet rocket testing locations south of it sounds intriguing. (Once there were some visitors from Oklahoma near the NASA test facility who used an inflatable dinghy to go down the C-111 canal at least part of the way to those locations.)

      About Flurbex’s comments: As aficionados, we care about this tangible piece of history, and visit or write about it in the name of education, taking pictures and nothing else, and disturbing no one. And frankly, vandals don’t research places to vandalize — they just go wherever — so this post shouldn’t pose any real danger to the sites. There are plenty of signs of previous visits — graffiti, what-have-you — by locals, read: “kids”, already (think of the people visiting the Youth Camp being able to see easily see these buildings virtually next door, in plain view, though behind fences). People in the area already know about it. We’re trying to bring part of the experience to serious people on the web, interested folks who likely will not be able to get there anyway.

      At the same time, it’s really hard to convey just how completely eerie it is to be onsite. It is awe-inspiring. I feel a deep sense of respect for those who labored there, and for the enormity of this project tied up so closely with the Cold War and the space race. It is standing gravitas.

    16. Jonathan Says:

      Thanks, Astro. I think you are probably right about the vandals, so I am making this post public again. BTW, since I wrote the post, someone forwarded a photo of the inside of the rocket-test pit, which is indeed under the shed. (The photo was taken before the pit was covered.)

      I agree about the eeriness of the site. Imagine how it must have been forty years ago when it was in the middle of nowhere.

    17. Astro Says:

      I’d like to see a picture of the inside of the rocket-test pit, for auld lang syne. Could you please post or email it to me? I’ll forward to here whatever stills and video I might be taking. About the Youth Camp, funny how it’s still lit up like Broadway at night, though it was officially closed just in April 2006 as an overkill, Supermax-type juvenile facility was opened off Krome Avenue. What’s labeled as the NASA test facility, the ruins (near the Youth Camp), would be where AeroJet manufactured and assembled the rockets. (There’s alot to see amidst the ruins.) The rockets were then transported for final testing to the locations farther south down AeroJet Road. Tested units were to be shipped out from the southern locations via barge down the C-111E canal. Have you been to the HM-59 missile site?

    18. Jonathan Says:

      -I’ll see what I can do on the photo.

      -Thanks for the info you’ve added.

      -Is HM-59 the site in the park? There’s also a site on or near Key Largo. I haven’t visited either.

    19. Astro Says:

      HM-59 is ~5 miles due east of the AeroJet factory, also outside the park. I’ve labeled it in the following screenshot: http://aycu23.webshots.com/image/11622/2005498481810216532_rs.jpg.

      I’d really like to check out the sites inside the park, which I’ve circled in the same screenshot.

    20. Erick Says:

      Jonathan,

      I’ve got some info on the site… Can you e-mail me? My e-mail is on my site: http://www.cheesepatrol.com

    21. flurbex Says:

      um..those silo shots were sent to you by me and you never once replied after that. and no they were not taken before it was sealed. as i said before, we rappelled down into the silo since it has been sealed probably before the 70s.

      i thought you pulled this info off the net but i see its still here. i guess after all you dont care if the rocket is vandalized or not.

    22. Carpemuffin Says:

      ….. This got old a long time ago.

    23. Jonathan Says:

      Flurbex, you have a history here of making accusations without knowing what you were talking about. First you accused me of stealing this post from another blog where I had cross-posted it. Now you are accusing someone of not acknowledging your photos or something. Do you have a dispute with one of the other commenters? If so, take it up with him by email rather than in this forum.

      I took this post offline for a while because I was unsure about the risk of leaving it up. But I thought about it and decided that on balance the benefits probably outweigh the risks, since the Aerojet site is already widely known and has been discussed recently in the press. Too bad you don’t agree, but you’re not making a strong argument in support of your position.

      BTW, why is it OK for you and your pals to rappel into a closed historical site — do your urban explorah ninja skills immunize you from causing damage?

    24. Meskk Says:

      Jonathan,

      I had the honor of visiting the Aerojet facility back in 1992, shortly after Hurricane Andrew ravaged south Dade county and the AeroJet Facility to it’s prior untouched condition.

      Being a Miami local, I have visited other sites throughout Dade county such as the abandoned Naval missile silo located in North Dade (same one that pointed missiles to Cuba during the Cuban missile crises in the 60s.) Other sites like it still remain further south in the Keys. Although, I believe the North Dade one has been demolished and striped of all its structures. All in all, great post and well documented

      Meskk.

    25. Carpemuffin Says:

      I never knew that a camera can cause damage. I might be wrong and please correct me if I am.

    26. flurbex Says:

      you all will be sorry once you see graf all over the rocket.

      and please do tell me how we did damage by going down and taking photos?

      sure i assumed that when you said someone forwarded pics of the pit, you were talking about the pics i sent you. maybe im wrong. there are only a few people to have ever gone down inside after it was sealed so this is why i assumed you were talking about the pics i sent you. i shared them with you to show you what was down there and how beutiful it is to see it as it is, without being defaced. i never got a thank you, a reply, nothing. that feeling of awe you felt when you saw those pics is not something you feel every day and those photos are not something you can see anywhere else from recent times with modern equipment. you are lucky you even got to see them.

      may your rope break on the way down, you self centered prick. :)

    27. Jonathan Says:

      Flurbex, I don’t remember receiving any photos from you.

    28. meskk Says:

      Note to FBI: Please make sure that flurbex does not own any firearms.

    29. Postonymous Says:

      Hey dudes the interest in common here is too cool for ppl to be arguing about it.

      Let’s all just appreciate the subject matters’s significance for what it is.

      Peace (and rocket science).

    30. flurbex Says:

      not by this name…..i sent you quite a few with a different email address….some probably had a thin white border around them.

      and the interest isnt common. we arent ninjas or claim to be or try to be. however we do try to protect the sites we go to and find from being publicly talked about i.e. maps, directions, step by step instructions. and we also have 3 strict rules….break nothing but silence, take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints.

    31. mike_sovits Says:

      Ok. I’m going to make this, very very simple. Clearly anything too complicated will not be understood here.

      Inactive sites that we all explore are vandalized because people that are irresponsible find them, typically aided by… irresponsible people. One of which to find you need not look any further than following quote:

      Jonathan, “It’s also obvious that there are lots of other valuable sites in our society that are vulnerable to vandalism and yet are rarely vandalized, even though their owners go out of their way to publicize their locations (shopping centers and national parks, for example).”

      Let us put this into perspective, sites such as shopping centers and national parks, which advertise to the public, are… and here things get extremely baffling… occupied by security! I know, this is incredibly hard to understand, so I’ll go through it again:

      Active sites are not vandalized because there are people there to prevent them from being vandalized.

      Inactive sites are vandalized because the locations are carelessly posted on the Internet for any would-be-explorer to exploit.

      Thank you for considering this point, and for making your arguments so easy to shoot down.

      -Sovits

    32. James A Pacella Says:

      I’m sure going on and on about this is doing great work at keeping this thread obscure on the internet.

      Simple eh?

    33. flurbex Says:

      theres nothing you can do except take it down…which he did at one point but then put it back up. us posting isnt making it more exposed.

      hey john, can i have your address? and the name and address of where you work? thanks.

    34. James A Pacella Says:

      i’m tempted to add this page to Digg

    35. mike_sovits Says:

      Gross misunderstandings in Internet technology. The bar lowers… and the blot thickens.

    36. Jonathan Says:

      Mike_sovits,

      The national parks exist because, a long time ago, people who wanted to protect those areas waged a series of publicity and lobbying campaigns and created a constituency in favor of preservation. It wouldn’t have happened if they had decided to keep the locations of the best sites secret. In the case of Aerojet, lots of people already know about the place. Trying to keep it secret won’t prevent them from finding it (as many already have), but will make it more difficult to get a lot of new people interested in it.

      The Aerojet site is on valuable land in a nature preserve and next to a national park. There’s a proposal to turn it into a recreation area. Other proposals are probably inevitable. Who’s going to be there to lobby against them if the existence of the place is secret? Are you going to go with your five buddies to a Land Management District meeting and say, “Hey dudes, please preserve the site so that we can go exploring there”? They won’t listen to you. They know that there are thousands of voters who would just love for the place to get bulldozed and made into a motocross park or whatever. The only way your position will get a hearing is if enough people who are interested in history and preservation learn about the place, and that won’t happen without publicity and public discussion.

    37. flurbex Says:

      youre only concern at the moment should be to not publicize this site. youre drawing attention to it and IF you were able to preserve it, by the time that would roll around, the remaining 1% of this location will be defaced and ruined. the only way to enjoy this location in its current state is to keep it low key and only share the info with people you trust.

      i dont even know how many people have seen this blog/post whatever but im sure its a lot. and since it doesnt really matter any more, i might as well share the photos with everyone of whats down there. id like for people to see it as we saw it, which i hope its still the same. however, there are too many people out there that are determined to mark “their” territory. its only a matter of time before the 260 is covered in spray paint. its very sad that the worlds largest rocket engine ever fired in history is sitting in a hole in the swamp. if they didnt care then, they arent going to care now.

      enjoy the photos.

      1

      2

      3

      4

      5

      6

      7

      8

      9

      10

      11

      12

      13

      14

    38. flurbex Says:

      guess i cant post the links for the photos here

    39. flurbex Says:

      someone tell me how to post links for the photos and ill gladly show you all what will eventually be covered in spray paint. i want everyone to see it as we saw it and we can only hope its still in the same condition at this moment.

    40. flurbex Says:

      http://digg.com/space/Worlds_Largest_Rocket_Engine_Ever_Fired_In_History_Exposed_To_Public

    41. Jonathan Says:

      Thanks, Flurbex. These are very nice photos.

      You couldn’t post them because any post that contains a lot of URLs gets trapped by the spam filter. That’s probably also what happened if you tried to post them here before. Once the spam filter traps them they’re gone unless someone tells me to look for them.

      I’m not convinced by your argument about the risks of publicizing the site, but I could always be wrong, so I removed the precise location references from my post. I’m sure you will think that this is too little, too late, but I think it’s a reasonable compromise.

      You might be more persuasive if you weren’t so rude and crazy-sounding to people you are trying to convince to do something.

    42. Anonypost Says:

      Wow.
      Agreed: Awesome rocket, the 260.
      Must be preserved.
      Somehow perhaps posting the pix may alleviate and forestall curiosity as to what’s down there.
      And at the least thanks fot the historical data, these images.
      Out!

    43. flurbex Says:

      im glad the directions are down….thank you

    44. flurbex Says:

      “You might be more persuasive if you weren’t so rude and crazy-sounding to people you are trying to convince to do something.”

      some of us arent very good with tact and communication. i just try to get to the meat of the matter as quickly as possible. in this situation, i felt is was very urgent and pressing so i was trying to do all i could to get at least the directions and location info off this site.

      im all for preserving it, that would be really cool. but there has to be a way to protect it while making it known to the right people of what it is and where it is. i never meant that it shouldnt be shared with anyone. its just when it comes to what we do (exploring/documenting) there are certain guidelines that we try to follow. not everyone out there wants to preserve and protect. many others dont see things the way we do and thats fine. however, if you dont like what you see, dont try to customize it with your name or other destruction, just move on.

      i really never understood why they would just leave this motor in the ground. ive contacted aerojet and asked them myself and this is what they said to me…..

      ——————————————————————————–
      From:
      Sent: Sunday, January 07, 2007 1:23 PM
      To: Bauer, Judith M
      Subject: aj 260 rocket in the everglades

      Hello. I have a question about the rocket silo sitting down in the Everglades.

      A photo shows the rocket being fired off at night with a small structure sitting to the left of the flames. I know for a fact that a structure is covering the entire silo that the rocket is sitting in. Since the roof of this structure does not open, how did they fire off this rocket? Or did they build the structure after they were completely done using the facility?

      Also why would someone just leave the largest rocket ever fired in history, sitting down in a hole with about 15-20 feet of water in it? Something like this needs to be in a museum, not left in a swamp.

      Dear Sir,

      Here is the response I received when I sent your inquiry to our Aerojet historian on plant. I hope this helps.

      Judy Bauer
      Aerojet – Sacramento
      916-355-2878

      The 260 Inch Motor Program was a NASA funded program and the static test and development reports are available from the National Technical Information Service (www.ntis.gov). The NTIS accession numbers for the 260 Inch Motor Program reports can be easily identified on the NASA Technical Reports Server (http://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp) by entering the search terms “260″ and “motor”. These reports show the layout of the former Aerojet Dade County facility and how the three 260 inch motors were manufactured and fired. These reports will explain the purpose and function of the building in question. The “silo” you are inquiring about was a combination cast pit and static test stand.

      The former Aerojet Dade County facility is now owned by the South Florida Water Management District. As to the reasons for the ultimate disposition of residual government-owned hardware, you would need to contact the appropriate NASA contracting agency that was responsible for the 260 Inch Motor Program. Many facilities and government-owned items from NASA development efforts in the 1960′s were declared “abandon in place” and this may have been the fate of the hardware in question.

      of course i feel that the best place for something like this would be the national air and space museum in washington dc. my first idea was take it to the space center here on the east coast but it would probably just sit outside and rust away and nobody would really care. either way, im 100% down for having it moved out to a better location or, repairing the location its in, allowing access and turning the entire silo/warehouse into the museum. remove the lid and have a glass wall around it or something. i dont know, there are tons of options. perhaps that will be its final resting place. who knows?

    45. Jonathan Says:

      Right, Aerojet’s out of the picture for practical purposes. Preservation is probably going to depend on working out a deal with the SFWMD. That implies publicity and fund-raising, and working out a way to display interesting equipment (either at the site or at a museum).

      Thanks for reprinting your correspondence with Aerojet. The info about the NASA Technical Reports Server looks very helpful.

    46. flurbex Says:

      like i said, im all for it. it would be nice to turn the test pit and the building above it into a museum. we were down there recently but only explored the surrounding buildings which in case you didnt know, were used to mix the fuel that they used to test the engines with. that explains the distance between them, the odd shapes and the burms built up around them.

      im curious to know if the engine is still untouched. it does have one good thing going for it….its a bitch to get into, and even more of a bitch to get back out of.

    47. Dale Says:

      i used to go there and play back in 1974, here are some facts that i know about the place.

      the grain or fuel mixing vats were long concrete vats 3-4 feet deep and 5-6 wide and 75-100 long, they were on the rignt side of the main road, somebody in the late 70′ rented the place and raised catfish in them, when he lost the lease he dumped them in the lake next to the vats were i’v been told it’s still full of catfish.

      one building had a room with a glass wall 9 feet thick for mixing fuel.
      most of the building were dummys for cold war reasons.the main road was able to land cargo planes

      the building over the silo had large aircraft type wheels on the inside corners and it would lift up and drive its self down to the block house when the motors were tested,
      one old timer told us that one test went wrong and the motor came out of the hole and fliped around out in the glades

    48. flurbex Says:

      yea its a cool site for sure. i hope to see something become of it and by become of it, i dont mean a 4×4 track.

    49. flurbex Says:

      also someone has been working on a movie about the place

      http://www.straightawaymovies.com/Aerojet/aerojet.html

    50. Jonathan Says:

      Wow. That should be interesting.

    51. Tom Poppino Says:

      In the early 60′s my father was the Project Manager for Frank J Rooney General Contractors for the Aerojet Project, in 1963 and 64 I fished there many times during construction…Red Comer, a carpenter fro Rooney was an avid bass fisherman and took me out ther quite a few time…I was 10 and 11 then…..incredible experience because man had never been back in this are and the fishing was too good….my dad, now 80 has photos from Aerojet and I want to go back sometime, I have contacted the Water Conservancy for Dade County and they are willing to meet me ther….Tom in NC

    52. Ted Says:

      I was glad to read the South Florida Water Management District will meet Tom to show the site. The SFWMD or another agency should take better care of it to share it with the world in the right setting. It is an awesome site to visit, so having the historical accounts in a tour / museum setup would be great. Who would have the funding?… NASA — no, unless tied in with the Smithsonian as related to their Jet & Aerospace Museum on the National Mall. There must be a way to do it. Hopefully it’s not just thinking aloud.

      The stories about the engine flying off into the glades is great, and the testing these brave engineers performed. These memories should be preserved as an historical resource. South Florida rocketry and missile sites played a key role when the world was on the brink of a thermonuclear Armageddon during and after the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Cold War has lessons and legends that reverberate today.

    53. Anonymous Says:

      We are preparing an industrial archeology piece on Aerojet, would like to use a couple of your prints. http://www.straightawaymovies.com

    54. Anonymous Says:

      Also these photos are quite old I’m guessing. The main assembling building is much dmaged now from Hurricane Andrew in 1992

    55. Jonathan Says:

      Straightaway Movies,

      Please contact me by email: jonathan at chicagoboyz dotnet.

    56. flurbex Says:

      the photos arent old at all. thats how the place looks. youre just probably not seeing shots of highly damaged areas.

      the test pit is already in a movie called “into the darkness” which has played at the cinequest film festival and the boston underground film festival.

    57. flurbex Says:

      here is the myspace page for the urban explorers – into the darkness movie

      http://www.myspace.com/urbanexplorers

    58. Jonathan Says:

      Thanks, Flurbex.

    59. Chris Says:

      Could somebody give me some coordinates of this facility? I really would like to check it out! Thanks!
      gatorchris (at) gmail dot com

    60. krypton1976 Says:

      Recently made a trip to Aerojet facility. Found it was a great place to explore and definetly needs to be preserved for historical purposes!!! Had a couple of questions in regard to the site and wondered if anyone could help me:

      1- My visit to the site was cut short due to some un-official looking white RVs driving up the roads. I thought the area was off limits to motorized vehicles? Who could these RVs be? Is the site, other than exploring, still used for anything?

      2- Where is this “youth camp” you guys speak of near Aerojet? I really don’t want to wander in there, so any info would be appreciated!

      3- Off subject – can anyone help me find these NIKE sites to photograph: HM-05, HM-60, HM-39 & HM-59?

      Thanks for any help: KRYPTON1976@HOTMAIL.COM

    61. Jonathan Says:

      Krypton1976:

      -I don’t know anything about the vehicles you saw. Might they have been official vehicles? The area is at least nominally patrolled by at least one state agency (water or wildlife mgmt district).

      -Youth camp (i.e., prison) is, IIRC, off on one side of the main road, near the gate that blocks motor vehicles. I don’t remember if there are signs indicating its presence. I think it’s been closed for several years.

      -I can’t help with the missile sites. I know there are at least a couple of them in the area, including one in the Park, but I don’t know how accessible they are.

    62. krypton1976 Says:

      Thanks for the help Jonathan! The RVs looked unofficial to me b/c they looked like they had advertisements on the back and sides, like on a bus. Official vehicles will have lettering identifying what agency they are, etc., but these had grafics, what appeared to be a person’s face, and such. Also, Wildlife Officers usually drive those large silver pick-up trucks with the blue lights on the top and these weren’t them. Of course, they might have been official, but my impression was that they weren’t.

      Was wondering what that area with all the barbed wire was (youth camp).

      Thanks anyway about the missle sites. If anyone reading this could help, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.

    63. FknBadFkr Says:

      I plan on making a trip this year to see the site. Id love to meet with some locals or others who know the site to share stories and make sur ei see what all is there. Im ne wto the Exploration sites but have been exploring for a few years now. I hope to meet some good people, see awesome places and take Even better pictures.

    64. Jonathan Says:

      FknBadFkr,

      Thanks for checking in. If you visit the site and have some pictures that you want to share, feel free to post a link to them here.

    65. quantum-x Says:

      Visited and documented last year.
      http://quantum-x.ice.org/episodes/abandoned-nasa-rocket-silo/

      To check out the report + photos

    66. Jonathan Says:

      Outstanding report and photos. Thanks for sharing.

    67. Tim Says:

      I’ve had the occasion to visit this site over the last few years for my job. This makes for a wonderful urban search and rescue venue for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Dept. It also make a good training ground for tactical assault team training, for which has been and probably be used for again. Those are fun to watch! Every once and a while a Navy Seal team comes down and assaults the place.

      [Directions deleted by Jonathan.] Also, I’d advise to come down during the dry season (Nov.- Apr.). The mosquitoes get fearsome when the wet season arrives.

    68. Jonathan Says:

      Thanks for the info, Tim!

      (I’ve removed the directions from your comment. Another commenter expressed concern that making the Aerojet site easy to find via Google would invite vandalism. After some reflection I decided to err on the side of caution and removed all precise directions from this blog. I figure that anyone who really wants to find the place can probably do so, but I don’t want to make it too easy for casual thrill seekers.)

    69. quantum-x Says:

      Honestly, it’s probably a good idea to keep this place under wraps as most as possible – among all the other reasons of vandalism [and the elitist outlook that locations like this should be earnt, no given] – but also because of the difficulty and danger involved in the location, especially the silo itself.

      Far be it for me to tell anyone what to do, but if you’re going to try to rappel into the silo, you need to know SRT technique, descending in confined spaces, and ascent also. It’s one of those places that if or when you fuck up, you’ll be no more than a skeleton when you’re found.

      And not to mention that anyone that tagged the rocket would be the world’s biggest idiot.

    70. David Says:

      The silo site was used last weekend as a rest stop on the Everglades Bicycle Club’s “Snowbird Century” ride. There was a South Florida Water Management District rep answering questions about the rocket. I don’t think it is much of a secret, at least in the bicycling community. The ride also stopped at the Nike Missle site inside Everglades National Park. At a minimum both sites need interpretive panels to explain what they are.

    71. Jonathan Says:

      It’s no secret. I still prefer not to post detailed directions as long as no one else is doing so.

      I think that your idea about interpretive panels is a good one.

    72. Joseph Says:

      Hey flurbex, do you have a myspace?

    73. Joseph Says:

      Has anyone taken a leak on the rocxket?

    74. Joseph Says:

      WTF is at the end of the ladder corridor outside the shed???

    75. Doug La Rue Says:

      Dear Jonathan:

      Just wanted to be in touch about Aerojet.

      I just completed a Film about that this year.

      If You would like a copy, just email me Your mailing address.

      Best Regards, Great web site,

      Doug La Rue

    76. David Morris Says:

      Hello Everyone,

      I live in Homestead Fl. and I just want you all to know that this site is not like the biggest secret in the world. Everyone I know, knows about it and has been there. If ever on your way to visit The Everglades National Park you should go check it out. The roads always blocked off so its a pretty long walk but its worth it.

    77. Jessica Says:

      Good thing it’s not a secret because I came across this post by accident in a google search! :)

    78. Jonathan Says:

      Hi Jessica,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Doug La Rue, who posted a comment above, has very kindly sent me a copy of his new film about Aerojet. I hope to be able to watch the film soon, and will probably write a new post on this blog about it, including some new photos from a visit to the site that I made this July.

    79. Marc Says:

      Anyone who has lived in Homestead for more then 10 years, is very formilluar of it’s location.
      However not everyone goes out there. I have been out there a number of times. It’s always a great time looking around and enjoying history.

      Jonathan I would love to see the video you got sent. Our history is import for everyone to remember.

      I also spoke with a friend who was born and raised in Homestead less then 10 miles from the site.
      He stated when he was a kid, you could see the glow from the rockets in town. Sometimes you could even feel the ground rumble he said.
      I was also told that FORD use to use the road to test vehicles because of the ideal location and distance.

      A few friends and I are looking for more information

    80. Jonathan Says:

      Marc, thanks for the feedback. I watched Doug La Rue’s video presentation, found it very informative and will blog about it as soon as I get the time. (Doug is selling copies of his DVD here.)

    81. David Says:

      The link in this previous post had some great photos from someone who climbed down into the silo but the link is dead. Does anyone know where the pics can be found now?

      quantum-x Says:
      February 5th, 2008 at 12:18 pm Visited and documented last year.
      http://quantum-x.ice.org/episodes/abandoned-nasa-rocket-silo/
      To check out the report + photos

    82. john Says:

      the site with the pictures is down for me as well. i saw them a while ago and wanted to show a friend who thinks nothing is underground in fl

      sprayed150@hotmail.com if anyone has the pics

    83. Anonymous Says:

      not a single comment on perchlorate poisoning…