Photo by Naaman, 2010

Aerojet-Dade Rocket Facility

1965 260 in. motor
Photo: The rocket motor as it arrived into Homestead.

In 1957, Sputnik was launched, being the first human-made object to orbit the Earth; an event that sparked a space race of who can get to the moon first, between the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1963, the U.S. Air Force gave Aerojet General, a major rocket and missile propulsion manufacturer, $3 million to start construction of a manufacturing and testing site in Homestead.

Aerojet acquired land for the plant, less than five miles from the Everglades National Park, paying $2.50 an acre per year for an annual lease with an option to buy up to 25,000 acres more at nickels on the dollar. A proposal was made to dig a canal from the facility to Barnes Sound on the Atlantic Ocean. The C-111, now known as Aerojet Canal, was dug even though it was close to the Everglades National Park, as economic development of the region won in favor of any environmental conflicts the canal would cause. The canal would be used to barge the rockets from the facility to Cape Canaveral as well as barging the needed equipment in.


Photo(Naaman Fletcher, 2010): Aerojet Road, a 5-mile stretch of road which runs deep into the Everglades.

A small debate arose on whether to use liquid-fuel rocket engines, solid-fuel rocket motors, or a combination of both. Solid-fueled rockets were best favored in the initial launch, able to lift over 100,000 pounds of payload through the atmosphere. But once free of Earth’s orbit though, liquid-fuel seemed to be the best route to go.

Aerojet now needed a cylindrical chamber that would withstand the force and power and space-faring rocket would cause. After much researching, the decided to subcontract the fabrication of 260-inch-diameter, 24m long chambers to Sun Ship and Dry dock Company located at Chester, PA. The chambers were designed in short-length, meaning half the size of what the final product would be, hence the names given to the test rockets, SL-1, SL-2 and SL-3. Both motors used a propellant burning rate and nozzle size appropriate for the full length design and were capable of about 1,600,000 kgf thrust for 114 seconds.

In March 1965, two rocket chambers were delivered to the plant. At the time, the C-111 canal was not yet complete, so the the rocket chambers were barged down from Sun Ship to Homestead via the Intracoastal Waterway and then trucked in from Biscayne Bay. The large amount of propellant needed for such a rocket was manufactured at the Everglades plant. As the chamber was trucked three miles south of the main facility to the test firing site, the propellant was mixed, analyzed, and produced to fill the rocket motor chamber.

Between Sept. 25, 1965 and June 17, 1967, three static test firings were done. SL-1 was fired at night, and the flame was clearly visible from Miami 50km away, producing over 3 million pounds of thrust. SL-2 was fired with similar success and relatively uneventful. SL-3, the third and what would be the final test rocket, used a partially submerged nozzle and produced 2,670,000 kgf thrust, making it the largest solid-fuel rocket ever.

Near burnout, the rocket nozzle was ejected, causing propellant made of hydrochloric acids to be spread across wetlands in the Everglades and crop fields and homes in Homestead. Many residents of Homestead complained about the damage done, which included paint damage to their cars and killing thousands of dollars worth of crops.


Photo(Naaman Fletcher, 2010): At least one of the buildings at the main facility have been scrapped.

By 1969, NASA had decided to go with liquid-fueled engines for the Apollo’s Saturn V rockets, causing the workers of the Everglades plant to be laid off and the abandonment of the facility. In 1986, after NASA had awarded the Space Shuttle booster contract to Morton Thiokol, Aerojet sued the State of Florida and sold most of it’s land holdings to the South Dade Land Corporation for $6 million. After many unsuccessful attempts to use the land for farming, the land was sold off again to the state of Florida for $12 million. Aerojet would later trade it’s remaining 5,100-acres in South Florida for 55,000 acres in New Mexico.

In February 2010, Rodney Erwin, representing the Omega Space Systems Group, made a proposal to the Homestead City Council to resurrect the vacant Aerojet facility as a new rocket plant. Though Homestead Mayor Steve Bateman supported the plan, pushing the need for jobs, the water management district immediately shot down the idea.

Photo by Naaman, 2010
Photos(Naaman Fletcher, 2010): The silo has been welded shut since it’s discovery post-abandonment. The AJ-260-2 rocket motor remains in it to this day.

In early-2010, the district made plans to overhaul the damage done to the wetlands by the C-111 canal. The canal had been sucking water that once flowed into Florida Bay and piping it 20 miles the wrong way, ever since it was dug. Parts of the facility have been scrapped and the doorways to the buildings have been blocked off by mounds of dirt.

South Florida Water Management(SFWMD) dismantled the shed which sat over the silo around May 2013 and the silo itself was covered with concrete bridge supports. Aerojet Road, which ran 3 miles south of the facility to the test firing site, is now a nature trail. The future of the space relic remains unknown.

Photo by Drew Perlmutter, 2013
Photo(Drew Perlmutter, 2013): The shed was dismantled and the silo was covered with concrete support beams.

Photographer: Naaman Fletcher
Year Taken: 2010
Website: http://leftbirmingham.blogspot.com/

Photographer: Bullet
Year Taken: 2012
Website: www.abandonedfl.com

Photographer: Leon Legot
Year Taken: 2013
Website: Photobucket

Photographer: YourMainParadox
Year Taken: 2013
Website: http://www.flickr.com/photos/48912544@N00/

Archive Photos

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Interview with Nomeus – Nomeus talks about his experience exploring this site.

Interview: YourMainParadox

Body Found in Aerojet Canal

Aerojet Dade: An Unfinished Journey

Photo by Nomeus, 2007 - Flurbex.com

Interview: Exploring the “Florida Door” with Nomeus

Author’s Note: Most of the information about the actual test site you find here is done off of the top of Nomeus’s head and was mostly rumors and heresay, so please don’t flood the comments with, “Your information is WRONG!” You can find more information about the test site here.

Bullet: Alright, to start this off, you can answer this for people who haven’t heard of this place. Exactly what is the “Florida door”?

Nomeus: The “Florida door” is the largest rocket engine ever fired in history. Technically its called the aerojet general 260 and there is extensive info on the net about it. It never flew into space but was fired many times in the swamps and left in a giant underground silo.

Bullet: You explored this place before many others even knew it existed. How did you find out about the place?

Nomeus: The way I found out about the “Florida door” is a good question. My earliest memory of it was, I received a random private message on a website from someone I didn’t know showing me a weird photo of something I couldn’t makes heads or tails of. I replied and asked what it was and this person said, “There is a missile in the everglades”.

Bullet: That’s a big missile….

Nomeus: So I kinda forgot about it and then all I can really remember is making friends with Shane and him telling me about how he went down inside of it. He was pretty open about it all and I saw it on Google maps. This was probably at the end of ’06 or beginning of ’07.

Bullet: Yeah, the metadata on your photos read January ’07.

Nomeus: Sure, so it had to be end of ’06 when I found out.

Bullet: When you went to check the place out, how many others went with you?

Nomeus: Okay… so by this time I had created FLURBEX and we were shit talking about doing the site, just me and like two other guys but that didn’t happen. Then out of nowhere I get contacted by out-of-state peeps; a guy named Jack. He’s like, “Hey, I know you know where the rocket is….I got the gear. We’ll pick you up and to go with us”. I said hell yeah! So it was me, Mikey(Peeps), Liz, Jack and Shawn. We all drove down in two cars.

Bullet: I’m not sure if it was like this back then, but did you bring bikes? or were you able to drive all the way down at the time?

Nomeus: Nope. The road was barricaded off with a gate and with deep ditches on both sides so you couldn’t drive around. We had about a 4 mile walk down the road, 8-9 miles round trip. Jack carried all his gear…ropes, etc. and we had radios which picked up the detention center talk. We heard everything they were doing as it was on the same road.

Bullet: It’s a long way down the silo, 180 feet to be exact. Did you have any prior experience rappelling?

Nomeus: None at all and I had no intentions of going down there but after I saw Liz, a 100lb girl do it AND come back up with no problems, I thought, I can do that! I was mistaken… it was horrible… one of the worst experiences of my life, hands down.

Bullet: Worse than getting lost at the power plant?

Nomeus: 10000 times worse. Going down wasn’t so bad; going up was the issue. I didn’t trust the gear, I quickly burned out my upper body strength holding on to the ascenders for dear life and I couldn’t move; my arms felt like rubber. I was in a crunched up position in the harness which put all this pressure on my diaphragm making it hard to breathe. It was dark and the air was very thick and humid, smelled like rocket fuel. Honestly, if it wasn’t for Jack… I would have been down there for many hours or days. I tried to convince him to just leave me down there and call 911 from a random pay phone but he wouldn’t do it.

Bullet: lol

Nomeus: Yea man, it sucked. Looking back on it, it was foolish to have done that without any prior experience but almost everyone I was with had none either so I said fuck it.

Bullet: so how did you finally get out?

Nomeus: I ascended on my own as much as I could little by little; it took a long time. Once I reached the hole, the rest tried to pull me through it but the hole was too small and had jagged cut metal on the sides. They pulled me out most of the way through the hole.

Bullet: that doesn’t sound fun at all…..

Nomeus: Everyone else loved it. For me, it was horrific. I can say I did it but in reality, I don’t think about it much, kinda like the zipgun incident, I just don’t think about it.

Bullet: If given the chance, would you go down into it again?

Nomeus: only if I didn’t have to rappel

Bullet: One last question. Who started calling it the “Florida door” and labelled it like it was a mythical being.

Nomeus: I think that was Shane, I think it started by him saying something like, “I went in the door or I went in this door”….a tiny hole is what became the “Florida door”.