Stennis Space Center had a giant horn installed in the times when they were testing the Saturn program engines. The purpose was to see what the acoustic conditions were like before testing and thus wait with a test if the sound propagation could cause damage in nearby houses:

Reverberations of the Saturn tests were quickly felt. The acoustical impact was quite evident in the immediate area around the city of Huntsville, and the long-range sound propagation occurred at distances up to 160 kilometers. The result was a rash of accidental damage to windows and wall plaster, followed by a rash of damage claims (sometimes filed by citizens on days when no tests had been conducted). Aware that climatic conditions caused very pronounced differences in noise levels and long-range sound propagation, engineers began taking meteorological soundings and installed a huge acoustical horn atop a tower in the vicinity of the test area. No ordinary tooter, the horn was over 7.6 meters long and had a huge flared aperture over 4.6 meters high. Its sonorous gawps, bounced off a network of sound recorders, gave acoustical engineers a good idea whether it was safe to fire the big rockets on overcast days.

(Stages to Saturn, p80)

Knowing that its testing program depended on public acceptance, NASA continued its acoustic studies, which were initiated in December 1962. The U.S. Weather Bureau and GE personnel operated the MTF Acoustics Laboratory where data were recorded and analyzed for prediction of sound propagation. GE personnel sounded a giant acoustic horn, and the Weather Bureau sent balloons aloft carrying instruments for predicting sound-level propagation to the surrounding communities. The acoustics experts set up measuring devices in the communities surrounding the MTF. The specialists sounded the giant horn several times simulating the test-firing sound levels; recorded the sound levels; and also sent weather balloons aloft to measure atmospheric conditions. The resulting data were fed into computers to determine a sound profile of the area. These tests were done because atmospheric conditions have a direct and major effect on sound travel and intensity. A temperature inversion can cause sound, which normally goes up into the atmosphere, to bounce back to the ground.

(Way station to space, p125/126)

MTF: Mississippi Test Facilities, the name of SSC before it was renamed.

Is this horn still at SSC? Is it used or are more sophisticated methods used nowadays?

Pictures of the horn would be awesome also.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This mentions Huntsville, which is where Marshal Space Center is, not Stennis. They certainly did do testing of rocket engines at Marshal once upon a time. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 11:25
  • $\begingroup$ @PearsonArtPhoto that's confusing... The horn is also mentioned in chapter 7 of "Way station to space" (end of p 125 and top of p126), where it is explicitly stated that it is installed at MTF. $\endgroup$
    – Ludo
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 11:34

2 Answers 2


The tower was demolished between the end of 2012 and the end of 2014. Its coordinates on Google Earth was 30°22'38.64"N and 89°35'57.62"W. There is satellite imagery of it standing with the horn still attached as late as 10/2012. The horn itself should have ended up at the Infinity Science Center but I don't know if it's on display. enter image description here

enter image description here

No idea on when it was used last or if anything came to replace it.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome! And that conclusively answers the question... somewhat unfortunately. $\endgroup$
    – Ludo
    Commented Nov 30, 2023 at 7:10

Partial answer -

The confusion arises because the horn started out at Huntsville and was later moved to the Mississippi Test Facility.

enter image description here

I don't know if it's still there and/or still used, though. It also isn't as big as the dimensions given in Stages to Saturn, perhaps they refer to the installation in Huntsville.

Source: Horn Tower (has more pictures) <==link broken, NASA destroying more of their own websites. There is some info and a different picture here.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think the various dimensions are sufficiently close to accept that this is the same horn referenced in Stages to Saturn. $\endgroup$
    – Ludo
    Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 10:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.