The Engine that Never Was, yet Was

[The abandoned Aerojet-Dade rocket engine factory in the Florida Everglades, seen in its present state via flickr user aviatorr727]

At nearly the same time our cold war efforts were experimenting with garment designs for space travel, we were simultaneously busy designing the rocket engines to get astronauts into space.  If you have yet too view it, Joey Daoud’s short documentary film Space Miami provides a great visual history of the defunct infrastructure of the Aerojet-Dade rocket factory in the southern tip of the Florida Everglades.

[Stills from Space Miami, including the 150′ deep Aerojet testing silo encased in a 4′ thick wall of concrete, a photograph of one of three rocket tests performed at the facility, and a rocket barge on the Aerojet Canal]

Aerojet-Dade became a residual corporate-industrial-military site about as quickly as it came into existence.  Mentioned but not seen in Space Miami is the super-sized Aerojet canal (or affectionately titled C-111 canal) built to transport the solid-fueled rocket engines that were far too large for highway transportation to the Cape Canaveral launch site.  The industrial archeology is a little bit vague on the details as to how much the C-111 canal was already a planned component of the far more massive and ambitious Central and South Florida Flood Control Project prior to Aerojet seeking to utilize it, and how much the canal’s construction was specifically accelerated and customized to the desires of Aerojet.  The symbiotic coupling of both industrial canal functions is an intersting piece of history in itself.

[Aerojet-Dade facility in relation to its C-111 transport canal (top) and miles downstream crossing beneath Highway 1 before discharging into Barnes Sound.  Images via Bing maps]

Unlike the ruins of the Aerojet property (now a nature reserve)  the C-111 canal has remained in active operation as a massive flood control mechanism that weaves through the flatlands of the Everglades, radically altering the hydrology of the region as it flows.  That is until now, as the Army Corp of Engineers design and construct Canal C-111 V 2.0 as part of efforts to reclaim the Everglades.


  1. Carter · ·

    Great post. I especially enjoyed reading your linked post of March 2010 about what has been done to the everglades in the past, and the current plan by Army Corps (Clinton Administration) to rehabilitate that area, or at least the ecosystem services of that area. I wonder if the new Governor there has shown any intention of trying to stop or hinder the restoration efforts, like he did with the high speed rail?

  2. I’m not clear on what the new governor’s take on the recovery of the Everglades is, which surely will have an influence.

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