Rockets to Relics: Blockhouse from Cape Canaveral SFS’s first launch uncovered

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Samuel Becker

Amidst the futuristic landscape of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS), where cutting-edge space technology propels humanity towards the stars, lies an astonishing archaeological trove dating back to 5000 B.C.

Students from the University of Central Florida (UCF) Department of Anthropology teamed up with Tom Penders, Space Launch Delta 45 cultural resource manager, to excavate archaeological dig sites at CCSFS and made exciting discoveries. 

"We found the blockhouse for Bumper 8, the first rocket launched at CCSFS on July 24, 1950," said Penders. "Initially given three locations, our surveys helped us locate it hidden beneath dense vegetation."

The blockhouse was a rectangular-shaped wooden frame structure located north of the pad and connected via utility trenches.

“We found a mixture of artifacts at the Bumper 8 blockhouse location,” said Penders, “from pottery shards dating back to 500 B.C., to materials from the blockhouse, such as mirror shards, nails, and tar paper from the walls.”

The unearthing of the Bumper 8 blockhouse comes as a timely discovery, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the groundbreaking first rocket launch on July 24, 2025.

The team also found other artifacts at a second dig site, such as pottery, bones, shells, and remnants of stone tools. This continues to shed light on the Cape’s distant past.

“By discovering pottery, bones, and shells, we can run a chemical analysis of the carbonized and absorbed organic residues on these artifacts,” said Allyson Shenkman, UCF student. “This can provide a unique window into the culinary cultures of ancient people, resource use, and environmental effects by identifying ingredients used in ancient meals.”

With these findings, the team was able to figure out the type of establishment that previously existed.

"Based on the discoveries [at the second dig site], such as post molds and soil stains, we can surmise that this area was once an occupation site with structures," said Shenkman. “The presence of what appears to be a village trash heap further supports the likelihood of this being a settlement."

Programs like the Cape Canaveral Archaeological Mitigation Project are crucial for enabling partnerships between the base and local community, while also preserving historical, archaeological, and cultural legacies.

"Through the Cape Canaveral Archeological Mitigation Project, we are able to save the Air and Space Force money, enabling us to fund work that might otherwise be delayed for decades,” said Penders. “Additionally, the program fosters community engagement and equips students with the skills needed for a career in archaeology and cultural resource management."