How to Sound Check the World’s Most Powerful Rocket

Welcome to NASA’s Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility, the most powerful jam space in the world.
May 1, 2016, 7:00pm
A 25 hertz horn. Image: Illudium Pu-36.

Heavy rockets are infamous for the raw acoustic power they produce at liftoff. Even Walter Cronkite, normally unfazeable, lost his cool while watching a Saturn V rocket launch up close in 1967. With that in mind, imagine the epic sonic rumblings we're in for with NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), the rocket currently being developed to launch humans to Mars, which will generate 20 percent more thrust than the Saturn V. Talk about turning the volume up to 11.


Indeed, SLS is expected to produce such thundering noise that its payload, the Orion crew capsule, requires intense sound testing at the world's most powerful acoustic chamber: the newly completed Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility (RATF) in Sandusky, Ohio.


Containing over 100,000 cubic feet of space and 36 super-loud, nitrogen-driven horns, this chamber is capable of producing 163 decibels of sound pressure, loud enough to rupture eardrums. In a video posted Friday, NASA acoustic engineer Aron Hozman shows off this amped-up environment, and its role in making sure that the first human Mars mission can withstand the blaring acoustic output of its unprecedented launch power.

"Each of these horns that you're seeing is able to produce certain frequency ranges, sort of like a big band," Hozman sad in the short. He notes that the volume of one 25-hertz RATF horn is equal to many thousands of household speakers, in order to produce those trademark supersonic rocketry grooves.

What's more, to get a sense of the pristine acoustics of the chamber, here's a video of a guitarist using the facility to achieve maximum easy listening resonance. It's good to know that the world's most powerful acoustic chamber doubles as a chill jam space.