Family History

Rothe Development's founder Wilhelm "Bill" Rothe was born and grew up in Germany where he studied art and was a swimmer in the Olympics prior to starting his career at a private Berlin firm designing gyroscopes for ships, tanks, and rockets. Both Wilhelm and his brother Heinrich then emigrated to the United States after the end of WWII as part of Werner von Braun's "Operation Paperclip" team of rocket scientists. Until 1960, Bill served as the chief of design for gyro stabilizers and assistant to the chief of the guidance and control division for the Army Ballistic Missile Agency at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, working on the Saturn V rocket. Later in his career, he spent time in senior engineering positions with New York commercial firms.  He moved to San Antonio in 1965 to lead the local office of System Research Laboratory, providing engineering support services to the Brooks Air Force Base School of Aerospace Medicine.

1967-1973 : Establishment and early growth

In 1967, Bill and Heinrich started their own small business, Rothe Development, Inc. to provide support to their employer System Research Laboratory. Their company, started as a real-estate holding endeavor with corporate offices and laboratory space at 4614 Sinclair Road.  The business quickly transitioned to an engineering research and development firm, to support Systems Research Laboratories throughout the closure of their San Antonio offices. Rothe Development eventually took over Systems Research Laboratory's equipment, office, and laboratory space as well as some of their remaining business in 1970. The corporation quickly went to work as a small engineering firm performing a variety of work:

  • Self-contained projects for the Brooks AFB School of Aerospace Medicine such as fire suppression and spray chiller systems for hyperbaric and hypobaric chambers
  • Commercial customer projects such as tables using reverse air-bearing techniques to hold papers in place for precision X/Y plotting and materials testing for manufacturers
  • In-house design including a small treadmill for dogs
  • Small customer equipment maintenance and repair, including lawnmower and compressor repair.

Through this diverse workscope, Bill Rothe maintained the vision and goal of serving the high technology sector of the growing space industry.

1973-1986 : Government service contracts in San Antonio and Houston; Commercial Calibration

1973 marked Rothe Development's entry into more prominent government service contracts with Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory (PMEL) services at Kelly AFB. This successful contract was followed on by small, but vital, engineering and software work at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) and the startup, staffing, and operation of the San Antonio Air Force Data Services Center (SADSC) in 1976-- the Air Force's first fee-for-service computing center in the country. Our past performance on SADSC contributed to Rothe winning the Central Shop Support Services (CSSS) at JSC supporting the Technical Service Division and Manufacturing, Materials, and Process Technology Division of the Engineering Directorate starting in 1978. At JSC, Rothe engineers participated in various activities supporting the Space Shuttle Program through small contracts with the Engineering directorate including the following:

  • Development, design, and production of the Space Shuttle Joystick Controller
  • Redesign and upgrade of the software and control system for the Remote Manipulator System (RMS) Simulator
  • Development and certification of the Payload Flight Test article used to verify the performance of the RMS Simulator
  • Layout and instrument design for the Space Shuttle interior instrument panels.

On the CSSS, Rothe performed development and fabrication supporting missions such as the LEASAT Salvaging Mission STS-51-I, the Orbital Refueling System on STS-41-G, and the Teacher in Space Project on STS-51-L.  For the Teacher in Space Project, Rothe Development engineers and manufacturers built a detailed model of the space station that was to be used by Christa McAuliffe as a teaching aid.

Other work for the Air Force included hydraulic test stands and stability augmenter test set for T-38 and F-8 aircraft, as well as design and construction of instrumentation and control consoles for hyperbaric and hypobaric chambers at Kelly AFB.

To diversify the Rothe footprint, a Calibration lab was established in 1976, serving commercial as well as government customers such as JSC.

1986-1997 : AF Contracts Expanded Reach; Consistent Service

1986 marked the beginning of Rothe's expansion into more significant DoD service contracts outside of Texas. Experience from Rothe's continued service at SADSC led to base computer system support contracts at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi and Minneapolis Air Force Reserve station in Minnesota. This period also included the computer-based training system support contract at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS. All three of these contracts were successfully re-competed at least once and Rothe's service was sustained for at least 10 years at each location.

Meanwhile, Rothe's work in San Antonio and Houston continued to grow in strength through many successful re-competes. Rothe employees at SADSC helped the organization adjust to changing requirements brought by the Base Realignment and Closure committee in the early 1990s, under which SADSC became Defense Information System Agency (DISA).

CSSS supported many Space Shuttle missions as a manufacturer of tools and parts, as well as the last process step of cleaning and prepping of most extra vehicular hardware being shipped to Cape Canaveral for launch. During this period, CSSS’s role increased to repairing electronic measurement equipment used across the center (a role later moved to the Manufacturing and Calibration Services [MACS] contract).

1997-2007 : Change, Transition, and Diversification

1997 brought a period of change to Rothe Development. First, Bill Rothe retired and transferred ownership of the business to Suzanne Patenaude. This transformed of Rothe Development into a Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB).

1997 also brought the transition of the long-standing CSSS contract to the Manufacturing and Calibration Services (MACS).  This contract increased Rothe's role in all parts of JSC’s manufacturing functions, while creating a focus on JSC's Structural Engineering Division, and adding the site-wide Calibration Lab.  Rothe’s MACS contract was performed until it was consolidated into Science, Engineering and Technology (SEAT) Contract, increasing the visibility of the manufacturing and production work, including the following:

  • A wide variety of critical space flight hardware
  • An engineering test model for the X-38 crew return vehicle
  • Multiple Space Station trainers and mockups for the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility (SVMF) and Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL)
  • A full-size flight-identical mockup of the Space Shuttle wing leading-edge reinforced carbon-composite panel system used in foam impact testing to confirm the root cause of the 2003 Columbia accident.

The MACS contract represented Rothe's pioneering effort of developing Reimbursable Space Act Agreement (RSAA) with the JSC’s Engineering Directorate to allow external commercial work in the NASA manufacturing shops and calibration lab, using excess capacity and offsetting costs through reimbursements to JSC.

As an extension of the calibration lab on the MACS contract, Rothe opened a small commercial calibration lab in 2001 in the NASA/JSC area operated by Rothe Enterprises, a newly formed HUBZone certified small business affiliate incorporated in 2000. The lab earned its ISO 9001: 2000 quality certification in 2002.  In 2004, the commercial calibration lab was expanded to facilitate Rothe’s entry into the commercial manufacturing market.

From 2003 to 2006 Rothe became a subcontractor on four major service contracts at NASA:

  • The newly formed NBL/SVMF Operations Contract (NSOC) providing operations, maintenance, and sustaining engineering for each of the world-class, high visibility, human space flight training facilities at JSC.  With our RSAA experience from MACS, Rothe led the development of the NSOC RSAA and External Customer Program in the NBL and SVMF.
  • The restructured SEAT contract continued the work of MACS including its external commercial work
  • The Cargo Mission Contract (CMC) including logistics, manufacturing, and depot maintenance/repair of flight hardware used on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station
  • The Calibration and Metrology Services (CAMS) contract running the on-site calibration lab, which was transitioned from the combined MACS/SEAT.

In the DoD sector, Rothe won the Communication and Visual Information Services at the US Air Force Academy in 2002 as a partner in Rohmann Joint Venture (RJV).  This contract provided services such as IT systems operations and maintenance, mobile voice communication systems, multimedia, television production, photography professional services, secure video teleconference system, and information management for the 9500 personnel at the academy.  We were responsible for activities ranging from training operations to documenting academy football games and practice.  In 2008 Rothe won the Air Force Network Operations Enterprise Service Desk contract providing operations support, training, and migration support. 

2007-Present: Alliant Small Business; NASA excellence

2007 marks the year that Rothe was selected as a contract winner for GSA's Alliant Small Business (ASB) Government-Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) as RX Joint Venture with partner X-Technologies. Task orders won and performed beginning in 2009 under this schedule included the following:

  • Scott Air Force Base IL, US Transportation Command, Corporate Services Support: Infrastructure Management, Operations and Maintenance.
  • Langley AFB VA, US Air Force Public Affairs Agency, provide system integration and risk management framework support services.
  • Langley AFB VA, provide Air Combat Command VTC Manpower Services.
  • Norfolk Naval Station VA, US Transportation Command Joint Enabling Capabilities Command C4I Services, provide knowledge management, operations and maintenance.
  • Tyndall AFB FL, Battle Control System-Tyndall Services Support, provide software development, training operations support, and maintenance.
  • Bluegrass Station, KY, Special Operations Forces Program Executive Office-SOF Support Activity.

At JSC, Rothe supported successful re-competes as subcontractors on NSOC, CMC, and CAMS. Major accomplishments included continued quality work while winning awards for increased commercial use of the NBL and transition of each training facility after Shuttle retirement including packaging mockups for shipment to museums.

On its commercial side, Rothe achieved and maintained ISO Quality certifications for each of its commercial calibration labs as well as American Society for Quality (ASQ) certifications for its calibration technicians. In Houston, Rothe sold its manufacturing division in 2011 and moved operations to Hercules Avenue, expanding space for our growing Commercial Calibration lab. To date, Rothe is a leading presence in Texas in the form of direct pickup and delivery or mobile/on-site calibrations and across the United States through shipments.