Roton Rotary Rocket


ROTON was a proposed design for a single-stage-to-orbit, reusable launch vehicle that was developed in the late 1990s. Unfortunately development ceased in 2001. ROTON may be considered a ‘space helicopter’. Roton was intended to reduce costs of launching payloads into low earth orbit by a factor of ten.


The Roton was conical in shape, 22 feet (6.7 meters) in diameter at the base and about 63 feet (19.2 meters) tall. The rounded base of the Roton contained the vehicle’s main propulsion system. During re-entry from orbit the base doubled as the vehicle’s heat shield. Located directly above the main engine was the ellipsoidal kerosene tank. The cargo bay was located above the kerosene tank. The cargo compartment shared space inside the vehicle frame with the crew cabin. Access to the cargo bay was provided through folding bay doors located on the opposite side to the crew cabin. Above the cargo bay was the LOX tank and attached to the top of it, on the nose of the Roton, are the rotor blades, hub and assembly. The Roton deployed the rotor system to provide a controlled gliding approach to the landing site. Scaled Composites worked with Rotary Rocket to develop the Atmospheric Test Vehicle (ATV).


Gary Hudson formed the start-up Rotary Rocket Inc. The headquarters were at a facility at Mojave Airport. A full-scale test vehicle made three hover flights in 1999, but the company ran out of funds and closed its doors in early 2001.

Did you know?

The Rotary Rocket Roton Atmospheric Test Vehicle (ATV) is on permanent display at the Mojave Spaceport in California, USA.

Roton Links:

Roton – Encyclopedia Astronautica
Back To The Future: The Rotary Rocket Roton
Our Spaceflight Heritage: The second flight of Rotary Rocket’s Roton

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