4 March 1999
- General (Good)
Schmooze Fest at the ROTON Rollout
Huge Gathering of Space Activists Converge on Mojave
by Sam Coniglio
If attending the ROTON ATV rollout at Rotary Rocket Company’s facility wasn’t cool enough, the party afterward was the ultimate schmooze fest. Old friends and fellow space activists conversed with business and government leaders. It was like a joint National Space Society, Space Access Society, and Space Frontier Foundation conference.

Rotary Rocket Company went on an all out marketing blitz to entice potential investors and to impress everyone. Lavish catering supplied breakfast and lunch for everyone. Everyone received a Rotary Rocket book bag and pen, and drank from Rotary Rocket water bottles. I even saw Rotary chocolate!!!

In the low bay, where the caterers had a lavish display, all of the contractors for Rotary Rocket Company had displays and promoted their products. In the high bay, Rotary had booths displaying the various technologies that they were developing. There was even a full size mock up of an orbital transfer vehicle that could be used to boost satellites into proper orbits.

The best part of the high bay, of course, was the ROTON itself. Everyone waited in line to climb the stairs and sit in the cockpit. There are two seats, and a computer screen that shows a flight simulation. (Those of us who were at the high bay on Sunday saw fuzzy dice hanging from the door release handle. Engineers have a great sense of humor.)

The Rotary Rocket team was giddy with excitement. They were so proud of their achievement, and they were glad they can now show the world their pride in joy. All of us are proud of them.

Reporters from around the world were there. The BBC had a big contingent, and there were reporters from all the major stations. It seemed like everybody in the stands had a camera.

Science fiction authors Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven were there, as well as some cast and crew from the Babylon 5 TV series. Tom Clancy made a grand entrance when his private jet parked right in front of Rotary’s High bay! I counted at least five business jets parked next to Clancy’s, each carrying VIPs from all over the world.

Burt Rutan showed off his X Prize vehicle, the Proteus. It is a sleek, swan-like craft with long wings and undulating curved. He also displayed the Boomerang, a bizarre bi-prop plane with an asymmetrical shape.

Pete Conrad, former Apollo astronaut, former DC-X manager, and now executive for Universal Space Lines, was there. He was joined by Dr. Bill Gaubatz, former DC-X director and now USL’s President.

Dr. Patrick Collins, economist and expert on space tourism, arrived from Tokyo to see his friend Gary Hudson’s great achievement.

Michael Kelly, founder of Kelly Space and Technology, and one of Rotary’s competitors, was there with Mike Gallo, VP, and Robert Davis, the new CEO.

San Jose’s Experimental Rocket Propulsion Society was there in force. Michael Wallis, VP, and Kevin Bollinger, President, went about networking with the business leaders.

The Honorable Andrea Seastrand, former US Congresswoman, was there promoting the California Space and Technology Alliance. She is trying to organize California business and government leaders to work on a unified California space policy.

Henry Vanderbilt, President of the Space Access Society, took time from harassing Congressional bureaucrats to join the festivities.

The great rocket scientist Maxwell Hunter and his wife, actress Irene Manning, were on hand for the rollout. Max was suitably impressed with the ROTON.

ProSpace leader Charles Miller was there, as well as SFF President Rick Tumlinson. Rick was the Master of Ceremonies for the rollout, and you could tell he was responsible for the Hollywood-style lighting, music and smoke effects. It seemed like a lot of Hollywood types were there.

In summary, the ROTON rollout was a huge success. It was the largest gathering of leaders and activists I had ever seen. The event put a tear in my eye, because finally, finally, our dreams were coming true.
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Sam Coniglio 4 March 1999
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