50 years ago, the winner of the space race between the USSR and the USA was decided by Neil Armstrong‘s one small step onto the moon. However, the superpowers weren‘t the only ones trying to conquer the final frontier. This film tells the incredible story of OTRAG, the world‘s first private space launch company, which launched rockets from the heart of the Congolese jungle and existed long before SPACE X.

It‘s the fairytale story of Lutz T. Kayser, a German engineer with a childhood dream of going to the stars. In 1975, with the help of a band of aeronautical engineers from Stuttgart and advised by Wernher von Braun, he founds OTRAG, the German acronym for Orbital Transport and Rocket Corporation.

Because the Treaty of Paris prohibits Germany from launching rockets from its territory, OTRAG gets in touch with General Mobutu Sese Seko, Zaire‘s strongman since the coup in 1965, who has a weakness for mega-projects and German technology. Mobutu loves organizing international events like the “Rumble in the Jungle”, but most of all, he wants to conquer space: by working with OTRAG he hopes to finally see a rocket take off from African soil. It‘s a match made in heaven: the Germans finally get to test their rocket and Mobutu gets the honor of bringing Africa into the 20th century.

Mobutu leases the engineers an area four times the size of Belgium, in the heart of the Congolese jungle and gives them carte blanche to manage it. So in 1976, OTRAG starts building an entire city dedicated to the construction of the rocket.

The first launches are successful but unleash an international political storm. Even though it is 30 years after the war, the world isn‘t keen on German rockets, even ones that only fly over the African jungle. Rumors are spreading, stating that the Germans are secretly building a V 3, eeply hidden in the rainforest. In the midst of the Cold War, political pressure mounts before another tragic turn of events, that will cost the lives of seven of the crewmembers, brings OTRAG‘s adventure in Zaire to an end…

Before this story fades into myth and legend, we give members of OTRAG a chance to tell their story for the very first time. Archive footage also plays a key role: almost 25 hours of 16mm footage, in addition to numerous super-8 films and 2000 6x6cm still photos. The quality of these images is remarkable and they have never been published before, making them absolutely exclusive.

OTRAG-Rocket (1978)

»Fly, Rocket, Fly!« is an adventure, a political thriller and a farce: 

a cross between»Fitzcarraldo«, »The Wages of Fear« and »Explorers on the Moon«.