The Emperor of OTRAG is a non-fiction story that tries to find out what forces led to the creation and demise of the first private space company and takes the reader from old West Germany to Mobutu's Zaire, Gaddafi's Libya, the Mojave Desert in California and an island in the Pacific where Lutz Kayser spent the last 10 years of his life. It raises the question of how far someone wants to go to make his dream come true.

Today, commercial space companies are demanding ever greater attention and their importance is likely to increase in the future. This evolution seems to be the most normal thing in the world for everyone and even fits in with the ideology of the UN: Space belongs to everyone. What is considered normal today was impossible just half a century ago.

In 1975, the West German engineer Lutz Kayser founded the world's first private space company: OTRAG. While the ESA was building an expensive European rocket, Kayser wanted to bring satellites into space at a tenth of the cost of an American NASA or a European ESA rocket.

The development project that would lead to the construction of an OTRAG rocket was initially supported by the West German government. But this support was later frozen by West Germany when it joined the European space project. Lutz Kayser was therefore obliged to finance his space project with private capital. Not only could he count on a group of West German financiers, but also young West German engineers were eager to contribute to this revolutionary idea. But OTRAG also had a dark side. There was not only the involvement of a few former Nazi scientists, the search for a suitable launch base also resulted in a collaboration with African dictators, each of whom controlled the fuse of gunpowder to provoke an international conflict. Lutz Kayser became a puppet in the Cold War with OTRAG and eventually faced the choice of producing military missiles or going under economically.

The emperor of OTRAG was initially planned as a film project. But the research eventually became a book.

Fons Feyaerts

Fons Feyaerts is a Belgian documentary maker.
€4.000 allocated on 21/06/2016.
ID
FPD/2016/1281
Grant
Fonds Pascal Decroos

BOOK (in Dutch)

Title: De Keizer van OTRAG
Date of publication: 23/06/2020.
ISBN: 978 90 8252 151 1
Pages: 164
Editor: Beeldenstorm vzw
Price: €15 + €2,5 verzendingskosten
Order via: dekeizervanotrag [at] gmail.com