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Saturn V was loud but didn’t melt concrete

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Saturn V was loud but didn’t melt concrete

The Saturn V rocket carried humans to the moon and remains the most powerful rocket to reach orbit to date. credit: NASA

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The Saturn V rocket carried man to the moon and remains the most powerful rocket ever successfully launched into orbit. It captures the imagination – but sometimes, it can capture too much imagination. The many Internet claims about the missile’s sonic power indicate that it melted concrete and ignited grass a mile away.

These ideas are undoubtedly wrong. in Journal of the American Acoustic AssociationResearchers from Brigham Young University used a physics-based model to estimate the acoustic levels of Saturn V, and obtained a value of 203 decibels, which matched the very limited data from the 1960s.

To put this number in perspective, commercial jet engines range from about 120 to 160 decibels.

Author Kent L. “One hundred seventy decibels would be equal to 10 aircraft engines. Two hundred would be 10,000 engines!”

While the Saturn V was quite loud, that kind of power isn’t close enough to melt concrete or start lawn fires. If reports about these phenomena are correct, they likely stem from radiative heating through the plume or debris.

Some misunderstanding comes from confusing sound power and sound pressure. The former is like the wattage of a light bulb. The latter is similar to the brightness from the same lamp: it depends on how far you are from standing. Errors in the calculations, changes in the decibel reference system, and the spread of misinformation also exacerbated the errors.

“Saturn 5 has taken on this kind of apocryphal status,” Ji said. “We felt that as part of the JASA Special Edition on Education in Acoustics, this was an opportunity to correct misinformation about this vehicle.”

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), Artemis 1 is scheduled to launch this fall, bringing humans back to the Moon and outpacing the Saturn V in power and noise. The researchers used their framework to predict SLS sound levels, and plan to take acoustic measurements when it is released to help improve the predictions.

The team also provided educational tools, such as homework problems, to share their results with college-level physics classes. They hope that the story of this missile will demonstrate the importance of careful examination of scientific data and discussions online.

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The article “Saturn-V Volume Levels: A Letter to the Redditor” by Kent LG, Logan T. Matthews, Mark C. Anderson, and Grant W. Hart. The article will appear in Journal of the American Acoustic Association On August 23, 2022.


Design workplaces with acoustic disturbances in mind


more information:
Saturn-V Audio Levels: Message to Redditor, Journal of the American Acoustic Association (2022). doi: 10.1121/10.0013216

Presented by the American Institute of Physics

the quote: Saturn 5 Was Noisy But Didn’t Melt Concrete (2022, Aug 23) Retrieved Aug 23, 2022 from

This document is subject to copyright. Notwithstanding any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.

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