By Mike Romero
NASA’s Artemis I is the world’s most powerful rocket. It is also the first major spaceflight to return NASA to lunar exploration – something they haven’t done since the Apollo program ended in 1972. Weighing nearly 5.75 million pounds at liftoff and standing 322 feet tall, we also know how loud the rocket’s propulsion systems were thanks to audio researchers at Brigham Young University.
BYU professor of Physics and Astronomy Kent Gee, along with BYU professor Grant Hart, took a team of undergraduate and graduate students to the Kennedy Space Center last November to collect acoustical measurements of the launch. The team set up field equipment in nine locations surrounding the launch pad, each at different angles relative to the rocket to see how the sound travelled through the atmosphere.
After the rocket took off in the early hours of November 16, Gee and his research team were excited to check their instruments to make sure they captured everything correctly. “You only get one shot at this right when the rocket launches. If you’re not prepared, you get nothing,” Gee says. The team cheered when they saw they had captured data.
So… how loud was the rocket?
About 136-137 decibels a mile away from the launch pad.
Other sounds in this range include a jet take-off, the loudest rock concert ever recorded, a gunshot at close range, and a jackhammer. All sounds above 85 decibels are considered dangerous for human ears and can cause permanent hearing loss.
Brigham Young University says that the measurements taken by the BYU team will be published in an upcoming edition of the journal JASA Express Letters. Gee says the data his team gathered will inform scientists on how to manage the impact of massive sound emissions from a growing number of rocket launches in both the U.S. and around the world as space travel becomes more common.
“Studying the noise that radiates from rockets is important because the noise can damage the payload, it can damage the vehicle, it can even damage the launch pad. As the noise travels out, it can impact both communities and the environment,” he says. “Everyone wants these launches to be safe, and they want them to not be impactful while still being able to accomplish their purpose. The noise is one of those possible impacts that we need to understand.”
Learn more about the team’s research trip in the video below.
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