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Rotary Rocket Rollout: Roton ATV the Nitty Gritty

rotary rocket

Nitty Gritty details about the Roton

The Roton Atmospheric Test Vehicle as seen on March 1st, 1999 is a test vehicle designed to fly on its rotor propellor up to about 6,000 feet elevation. The rocket engine assembly has been designed but is yet to be built. A second vehicle of the same dimensions (63 feet high) will be built with engine for an orbital test flight, which Rotary Rocket hopes will occur within 18 months (funds allowing).

We interviewed the engineers at length and determined the following interesting Nitty Gritty details about the Roton's design:

The Roton is a single stage to orbit vehicle, no part is jettisoned during ascent or descent. The vehicle will be born aloft by a set of 72 rotating rocket engines. Reentry will occur with the blunt end acting as a braking and heat shield with the rotor propellers deployed to provide final braking of the vehicle.

The Roton is design to carry two flight engineers wearing pressure suits and to support full EVA activities (being developed by Weaver Aerospace). The crew compartment is inserted below the LOX tank and above the Kerosene tank. The Roton can also carry satellite payloads.

Roton's engines will be fed by a disk of fuel tubes spinning at 720 RPMs driving fuel to the engines on the ends of the tube by centrifugal force alone. The complexity, weight and unreliability of turbopumps is avoided. External power will spin up the assembly and launch will occur within one second of spin-up. The Engines will be angled at between 2 and 3 degrees, providing continued thrust driving the spinning disk.

Roton will be guided by thrust vector only, no engine gimbaling (turning of the nozzles) will occur. In addition, the construction of the vehicle will place the center of gravity off center, causing the vehicle to turn toward the east, giving it the proper attitude to achieve orbit. On descent, the center of gravity will be much lower and the vehicle will be stable for the drop and landing. For on-orbit manoevering, there will be thrusters mounted on the outside of the fuselage.

The Roton has an incredibly light weight of25,000 pounds including payload (unfueled) due to the simplicity of its design and use of composite materials in the hull and airframe.

The Roton is in effect a very strangely shaped helicopter during the final descent stage. The Roton's propellers are powered by hydrogen peroxide jets to provide final braking during "flare out" a few hundred feet above ground. Plans are that the pilots will "pop the hatch" and eyeball the landing.

Roton's landing legs deploy and lock by gravity alone.

Pictures of Nitty Gritty Demos
(click on images for larger views, if you would like to use any of these images, please contact me)

Engine designer describes the Roton's centrifugal force fuel distribution system

Engine design diagrams and centrifugal fuel distribution system

Propulsion engineer by the
ablative test engine

Entering the crew cabin

Roton ATV in test later in 1999

Artist's conception of
Roton in orbit

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