Abandoned rocket factory in the Everglades

This short documentary by Coffee and Celluloid Productions tells the fascinating story behind a haunting collection of abandoned buildings in Florida. In 1963, a company called Aerojet built a rocket factory in the Everglades, hoping to win the contract to build the rockets that would send the Apollo missions to the moon. In the process, they built the world's largest solid fuel rocket. When they lost the contract, the site was left to rot.

Video Link

Submitterated by Joey D

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    1. They probably tried to clean it up a bit but places like these are always contaminated with something. Forget to flush a coolant pipe that later corrodes and leaks, that’s a hazard. The fact of the matter is these guys had to abandon a huge investment. They probably lacked the funds or the inclination to abandon it properly. It’s never wise to just go wandering in these things (in part due to how structurally unsound they get after a while), which is a real shame but there you have it.

      Buy yourself a nice gas mask and take a risk. ;)

  1. Did anyone else notice that typo in the second art card?

    “Aerojet planned to build rockets for NASA to send man to the moon.”

    Strange, because the rest seems to be well done. Good work regardless. I wonder what kind of dolly they used.

  2. Aerojet is still around, still making solid rocket boosters. Werner Von Braun didn’t want solids on his rockets carrying people, though. Werner Von Braun was a smart man, except for that whole Nazi thing.

    1. Aerojet designed monolithic solid rocket boosters so they wouldn’t have required the flawed system of segments and O-rings that Morton Thiokol came up with. Because the factory would have been close to Canaveral, the rockets could have been barged to the VAB just like stages of Apollo eventually made the same trip. Aerojet similarly proposed monolithic solid rocket boosters for the Shuttle but lost out to MT.

      1. Yes, besides digging a giant pit and rocket site in the Everglades, Aerojet also dug a massive canal from the site to the Atlantic ocean. Once assembled the rockets would be too big to ship by truck or train, so they would be barged to Cape Canaveral. That was the idea at least, the rockets only came in for testing. They were never shipped out.

  3. There’s one scene for which it looked as if an alien cut their finger and bled onto the platform.

  4. Aerojet is still around. I grew up with my father working for them in the solid fuel group (after Aerojet bought up Space General). Some of Von Braun’s former team from the V-2 project and Huntsville did work for Aerojet, but he had no personal affiliation. Damn, wish my dad was still around because he would’ve got a kick out of this story

    On a side note, I love finding out the backstory/hidden history of the company. As a kid, I was part of the company family and associate with annual family visit days and the company picnic. But then I found out about founder John Parsons and his whole crazy personal life with Aleister Crowley and L Ron Hubbard.

    1. Thanks for posting this Graysmith. I was too lazy to look for it myself. :) There is some fascinating stuff out there in the middle of the Everglades.
      BTW – That would have been one looooong barge trip from that site all the way up to Cape Canaveral.

  5. I’ve been there, though I don’t recall seeing the test firing hole.

    If you go and you’re into this sort of thing, visit Everglades National Park ( next door ) and get in on the Nike missile base guided tour. When I did it last winter it was guided by a Veteran who had been stationed there.

    I was unaware that we had nuclear tipped anti-aircraft missiles stationed here in South Florida.

  6. Oh, yeah, the 260″ boosters. One-piece cylinders which would be stuck in a pit in the ground and into which enormous quantities of fuel-goop would be poured. When cured you’d bolt on the nozzle and ship it up the coast.

    If you dig around you can find all sorts of concept diagrams of Saturn rockets outfitted with strap-on 260″ boosters. The kind of thing you’d lift space stations and Mars mission ships to orbit with.

  7. Fascinating place, but I wasn’t a big fan of the video production. Rather disappointed that they only showed brief, shaky footage of the rocket, and then mentioned *afterward* that it’s still the largest solid-fuel rocket in the world – they don’t tell you what you’re looking at when they’re showing the rocket – and then don’t show it again!

    And they didn’t show the canals (which are clearly visible on google maps), or anything else that might be interesting?

    That said, I highly appreciate the thought that went behind this. Mostly when you see video or photography from abandoned industrial sites you don’t get any real background about the place, other than the typical ridiculous prose urban explorer types write that is probably based on utter nonsense. Indeed, without the background most of this video (besides the shot of the rocket) would be rather boring, very typical abandoned industrial stuff.

  8. There’s a major Aerojet facility not too far from me… and yeah, they still build rockets there.

  9. “lacked the funds or the inclination to abandon it properly”

    Mostly inclination, I suspect. Defense contractors (among other ‘essential’ concerns) have seem to have a curious immunity to having to clean up their messes.

  10. I remember it very well as i got laid off shortly after we lost that contract to MT.I got rehired back and retired in 2003. I used to have pics of that case laying down with a man standing inside he looked like a small person.
    Ray

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