In the Seventies, Lutz Kaiser, a former student of Eugen Sanger, projected the construction of low cost modular space launchers. He created the OTRAG company, whose registered offices were based in Stuttgart in Germany, and secured the assistance of Kurt Debus who had been director of the Peenemünde Center then of the Kennedy Space Center.
The OTRAG rockets family was conceived from a standard basic module composed of a couple of cylindrical tubes 30 cm in diameter containing one the fuel (kerosene), the other the oxidizer (nitric acid). Each of them comprised, at the base, a 30 kN engine supplied by tank pressurization by means of a 40 bars compressed air reserve. The rocket modules were to be grouped in bundles which dimensions were a function of the payload. The thrust of the engines could take only three values: stop, half-mode and full mode. However, it was possible to control individually each engine of the bundle, and by this way to allow a flight program execution. The most powerful vehicle of the series was to include 600 engines with each one a 40 m length propellant tank.
In December 1975, OTRAG signed an agreement with the Zaire government to establish a rocket range in the north of Shaba. Three test vehicles were launched there. At the time of the two first, happened in May 1977 and May 1978, two 6 m high rockets equipped each with four engines culminated respectively to 20 and 30 km. But in June 1978, a 12 m rocket with four modules crashed after a few seconds of flight.
In April 1979, following the political pressures exerted by the USSR, the Zaire government
put an end to the agreement with OTRAG. The company then installed its rocket range in Libya,
600 km in the south of Tripoli. Test flights were apparently carried out there in 1981, but the
program worried this time the USA which finally obliged OTRAG to leave the country. A last
launch took place in Kiruna (Sweden) in 1983.
The OTRAG stopped its activities in 1987.
OTRAG rockets launches calendar
|17 May 1977||(Shaba)||OTRAG 01||Technology||S (20 km)|
|20 May 1978||(Shaba)||OTRAG 02||Technology||S (30 km)|
|05 Jun 1978||(Shaba)||OTRAG 03||Technology||F|
|01 Mar 1981||(Lybia)||OTRAG ?||Technology||?|
|19 Sep 1983||KIR||OTRAG 1-3-B||Technology||F|