Saturn V was as loud as 10,000 jet engines, but it didn’t melt concrete

A common Saturn V misconception

Though Saturn V was an incredibly powerful rocket in its own right, a few misconceptions have spread online regarding the launch vehicle in recent months and years.

According to a report from SciTech Daily, one widely-spread internet claim is that Saturn V’s acoustic power melted concrete and lit grass on fire over a mile away from the rocket pad — Spinal Tap would surely be impressed.

Scientists from Brigham Young University (BYU) disproved these false claims, and they laid out their methods in a new paper published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. They used a physics-based model to estimate the acoustic levels of the Saturn V rocket at a value of 203 decibels, which matches the limited sound data from the 1960s.

“Decibels are logarithmic, so every 10 decibels is an order of magnitude increase,” said author Kent L. Gee, of BYU. “One hundred and seventy decibels would be equivalent to 10 aircraft engines. Two hundred would be 10,000 engines!”

Saturn V took on a ‘legendary, apocryphal status’

Though Saturn V was incredibly loud, the researchers behind the new paper said its acoustic power was nowhere near enough to start grass fires, let alone melt concrete. If reports about grass fires starting a mile away from launch are true, they were likely caused by radiative heating or debris.

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