Key Players

  • Erik Seedhouse
Part of the Springer Praxis Books book series (PRAXIS)


This was the company that developed the Roton, a reusable single-stage-to-orbit vehicle designed to reduce costs of delivering payloads to orbit by an order of magnitude. Roton’s design was as unique and revolutionary as they get. Supported by US$30 million from venture capitalists and angel investors, the Rotary Rocket team, led by Gary Hudson and Bevin McKinney, planned to create a hybrid helicopter-rocket. The idea was that spinning rotor blades powered by jets at the blade tips would lift the spacecraft to an altitude where air density was too thin for helicopter flight. At this altitude, the spacecraft would switch to rocket power. The cone-shaped rocket (Figure 2.1) was designed to bring down the cost of payload to orbit to around US$1,000 per kilogram. While the helicopter-inspired design allowed the Roton to land just about anywhere, the early flight testing wasn’t without its problems. To test the hover capabilities, Rotary Rocket built the Atmospheric Test Vehicle (ATV) that flew three test flights: the co-pilot for the tests was Brian Binnie incidentally, who went on to fly with Virgin Galactic (the second X-Prize flight) and then XCOR. The limited visibility in the ATV’s cockpit was so restricted that pilots nicknamed it the Batcave. While Rotary Rocket claimed they couldn’t continue due to lack of funding, some pointed to unproven technology and a flawed design that led to some unstable landings. Rotary Rocket eventually closed its hangar doors in 2001.


International Space Station Federal Aviation Administration Carrier Aircraft Commercial Space Frequent Flyer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erik Seedhouse
    • 1
  1. 1.Commercial Space OperationsEmbry-Riddle Aeronautical UniversityDaytona BeachUSA

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