Clark Lindsey over at NewSpaceWatch points to three new patents that Blue Origin has received for its reusable launch vehicle. Abstracts and links to the patent documents are after the break.
Compensating for wind prior to engaging airborne propulsion devices
Document Type and Number: United States Patent 8424808
Technology is described for enabling a reusable launch vehicle to compensate for wind prior to engaging propulsion during approach to landing. The technology can cause the reusable launch vehicle to begin un-powered descent; determine a first rotation angle of the reusable launch vehicle about a specified vertical descent path, the first rotation angle corresponding to a first attitude of the reusable launch vehicle selected to stabilize the reusable launch vehicle on the vertical descent path based on a wind speed and angle; and prior to engaging a propulsion device, command a second rotation angle for the reusable launch vehicle, the second rotation angle corresponding to a second attitude that, when the propulsion device is engaged, will cause the reusable launch vehicle to remain at least approximately at the vertical descent path.
Launch vehicles with fixed and deployable deceleration surfaces, and/or shaped fuel tanks, and associated systems and methods
Document Type and Number: United States Patent 8408497
Document Location: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/8408497.html
Launch vehicles with fixed and deployable deceleration surfaces and associated systems and methods are disclosed. A system in accordance with a particular embodiment includes a launch vehicle that has a first end and a second end generally opposite the first end, and is elongated along a vehicle axis extending between the first and second ends. The vehicle carries an exposed outwardly facing surface having a first region positioned or positionable to have a first cross-sectional area generally normal to the vehicle axis toward the first end of the vehicle, and a second region positioned or positionable to have a second cross-sectional area generally normal to the vehicle axis toward the second end of the vehicle. The first cross-sectional area is less than the second cross-sectional area. The system can further include a propulsion system carried by the launch vehicle and having at least one nozzle positioned toward the first end of the vehicle to launch the launch vehicle. In a further particular embodiment, the exposed surface can include a deployable flare surface that is positioned toward the forward section of the vehicle and is stowed during an ascent phase of the vehicle. During descent, the deployable flare surface can pivot outwardly to slow the vehicle down for a tail-down landing. Systems is accordance with other embodiments include launch vehicles with fuel tanks shaped to control the motion of the center of gravity of fuel in the tanks as the fuel level in the tank changes.
Document Location: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/8408443.html
Modular friction welding heads and associated systems and methods are disclosed herein. A friction welding system in accordance with a particular embodiment includes a carrier fixture positioned to carry a workpiece, a head support positioned proximate to the carrier fixture, and a modular friction welding head releasably carried by the head support. At least one of the carrier fixture and the head support can have a guide structure with a constrained motion path positioned to guide relative motion between the modular friction welding head and the carrier fixture. A controller can be operatively coupled to the modular friction welding head and programmed with instructions to control the operation of the friction welding head.