The government and its contractors have a long tradition of abandoning facilities that no longer serve them, but generally the sites are cleaned of anything of interest leaving starkly empty buildings to rot.
However at the Aerojet-Dade Rocket Facility, they decided to just leave their giant rocket where it was. Located in the middle of 25,000 acres of land purchased by the Aerojet company in the early 1960’s, the test site was developed to experiment with various types of rocket fuel with which to get humans into space. Two rocket silos were built into the ground and during its operating life, the complex tested three different rocket types at full-burn. These static tests gauged the effectiveness of solid rocket fuel, the last test rocket being the largest solid-fuel rocket ever built. This last test saw the release of hydrochloric acids across the surrounding crops and wetlands, making the facility less than popular among the locals.
In addition to the primary structures and the silos, Aerojet-General also created the largest and longest canal found anywhere in the Everglades. The canal, which reaches the Atlantic Ocean after traveling underneath a drawbridge created for it on the way, was required to transfer the incredibly heavy rockets by barge. Because they were designed as solid-fuel and weighed an unbelievable amount, no other method of transportation would suffice.
Unfortunately for Aerojet, NASA chose to use liquid fuel for its manned launches and the Dade testing facility was scrapped when the contractor’s funding dried up. The silos and buildings were quickly abandoned and while attempts were made to use the surrounding land for farming and redevelopment, nothing ever took.
The final SL-3 rocket was left in its silo and imperfectly covered with steel plates, making it, along with the other remaining sheds, a magnet for urban explorers. Recently, a number of the structures have been dismantled and the silos covered with huge cement beams, making the site more impenetrable for explorers. Aerojet Dade Rocket Facility is quickly being buried, creating another relic in what will one day be known as the archaeology of space travel.
Know Before You Go
The area is not patrolled at all, and there is no security other than the gates blocking the paved roads that lead to the buildings. There are several buildings that make up this facility, and they are all worth visiting via bicycle!
If you input "Aerojet facility" into your Apple Maps, directions lead you straight to the entrance, which is open to the public for hiking trails and fishing docks along the canals. You can park right outside the first gate. This is where the bicycle comes into play, as the buildings are miles away from the park entrance. It is about a 15-20 minute bicycle ride to the largest set of buildings. And 15 or so minutes past there, you can find the small building where the rockets are now buried in cement. Sometimes, the road to this building is blocked by several small waterways. They were dried up at the time we visited.
We only encountered one other group of kids who were doing urban exploration, and a family who was fishing. It is clear that many people go out here to shoot guns (gunshells everywhere), so just be aware of your surroundings. Definitely recommend sunscreen, bug spray, hats, sturdy shoes, and lots of water! This place is amazing and worth the adventure.