Kent, WA, United States
Kent, WA, United States

Blue Origin is a privately funded aerospace company set up by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. The company is developing technologies to enable private human access to space with the goal of dramatically lower cost and increased reliability. It is employing an incremental approach from suborbital to orbital flight, with each developmental step building on its prior work. The company motto is "Gradatim Ferociter", Latin for "Step-by-Step, Ferociously". Blue is developing a variety of technologies, with a focus on rocket-powered Vertical Takeoff and Vertical Landing vehicles for access to suborbital and orbital space.Initially focused on sub-orbital spaceflight, the company has built and flown a testbed of its New Shepard spacecraft design at their Culberson County, Texas facility. According to company statements, it initially planned on placing the New Shepard in commercial suborbital tourist service in 2010 with flights about once a week. In 2008 the publicized timetable stated that Blue Origin will fly unmanned in 2011, and manned in 2012. As of 2013, the company website makes no statements about the date of its first flights.Late 2014 public announcements, and a contractual agreement to build a new rocket engine for major US launch system operator United Launch Alliance, have put Blue Origin into the middle of the orbital spaceflight technology business, as a rocket engine supplier. Wikipedia.


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The High Dive is known for drawing crowds into the local music scene, but this week, music wasn’t what drew nearly 200 people to the venue – it was NASA. Nerd Nite Seattle is a monthly gathering at the bar in the city’s Fremont neighborhood, featuring beer, tasty Mexican food, science talks and, of course, nerdy Seattleites. Tuesday night’s event drew in plenty of the regulars, plus an assortment of first-timers. One of the first-timers was NASA astronaut Anne McClain. She mingled with the crowd, and then got on stage to speak about her rigorous astronaut training, share hilarious stories about other members of her astronaut class, and reflect on how growing up in Washington state made her want to go to space. “I decided when I was about 3 years old, the first time I told my mom I wanted to be an astronaut,” said McClain, who is now 37. “Luckily she is a bit of a nerd herself, and so she really fostered that.” Young McClain and her family (who came out to support her at Nerd Nite) were frequent visitors to the Pacific Science Center. They also went to the Space Needle, where McClain played pretend-astronaut. “I remember riding the Space Needle and going up in the elevator and being scared, but thinking, ‘This is going to be like going up a launch tower,’ and so I would sit there and try to face that fear,” she said. McClain followed up on her childhood dream by attending West Point and becoming an Army major, helicopter pilot and flight instructor. In 2013, she won a spot in NASA’s most recent class of astronaut candidates. She’s still waiting for her first spaceflight assignment, but in the meantime, she’s playing a role in the development and testing of future spaceships. This week may have marked the first time the denizens of Nerd Nite Seattle hosted an astronaut, but it wasn’t the first time they’ve gathered to talk about space. Nerd Nite volunteer Jenny Haaland said they’ve hosted talks about planets and other space topics before. One Star Wars night in particular got very intense. Nerd Nite’s quirkiness is a big part of its appeal. Haaland said she loves finding out what people are passionate about, and taking in the night’s nerdy atmosphere. “Bars tend to be very insular, and Nerd Nite just isn’t,” she said. “People are willing to turn to one another and say, ‘Well, what did you think about that?’ and talk about what we just heard.” Nerd Nite does bring in some families – but a large pool of attendees are in their early careers, typically working at tech firms such as Amazon and Boeing. Amazon software development engineer Michael Li said he enjoys coming because it’s a refreshing break after a long day’s work. McClain’s Seattle visit was part of a NASA tour program known as Destination Station, which sends astronauts, researchers and outreach specialists to cities across the country. The Destination Station team also checks in with local companies to spread the word about commercial opportunities in space. During this week’s stopover, the team visited Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket venture, Microsoft and Starbucks. Among the topics that came up at Starbucks were the challenges of managing product shelf life and brewing coffee in zero-G, said Pete Hasbrook, an associate program scientist for the International Space Station program. Tuesday’s Nerd Nite ended with an inspiring video about the space station and its crew, plus a round of audience questions that sparked a conversation about leadership in space. Inspiring the nerd crowd may not have been the only thing on McClain’s schedule, but being at the High Dive and reconnecting with her childhood memories were definitely among the highlights. “I still feel inside like a little kid from Spokane with a dream,” she said. “My heart would race when I went to Pacific Science Center because I would pretend to be an astronaut, and now I get to come back and give back to the community that I think compelled me to where I am.”


Vehicles with bidirectional control surfaces and associated systems and methods are disclosed. In a particular embodiment, a rocket can include a plurality of bidirectional control surfaces positioned toward an aft portion of the rocket. In this embodiment, the bidirectional control surfaces can be operable to control the orientation and/or flight path of the rocket during both ascent, in a nose-first orientation, and descent, in a tail-first orientation for, e.g., a tail-down landing.


Inflatable rings for supporting friction welding workpieces, and associated systems and methods. A support assembly (874) for joining multiple workpieces in a representative embodiment includes two drive rings (875), each carried by a corresponding drive ring carriage (876). Each drive ring (875) can include a generally cylindrical body (890) carrying one or more inflatable members (880) that extend around some or all of the circumference of the region enclosed by the drive ring (875). Each of the inflatable members (880) can be inflated with a suitable fluid (e.g., a gas or liquid) so as to expand radially inwardly (as indicated by arrows I) to engage the outer circumference, periphery or other outwardly-facing surface of a workpiece.


Vehicles with bidirectional control surfaces and associated systems and methods are disclosed. In a particular embodiment, a rocket can include a plurality of bidirectional control surfaces positioned toward an aft portion of the rocket. In this embodiment, the bidirectional control surfaces can be operable to control the orientation and/or flight path of the rocket during both ascent, in a nose-first orientation, and descent, in a tail-first orientation for, e.g., a tail-down landing.


Vehicles with bidirectional control surfaces and associated systems and methods are disclosed. In a particular embodiment, a rocket can include a plurality of bidirectional control surfaces positioned toward an aft portion of the rocket. In this embodiment, the bidirectional control surfaces can be operable to control the orientation and/or flight path of the rocket during both ascent, in a nose-first orientation, and descent, in a tail-first orientation for, e.g., a tail-down landing.


Vehicles with bidirectional control surfaces and associated systems and methods are disclosed. In a particular embodiment, a rocket can include a plurality of bidirectional control surfaces positioned toward an aft portion of the rocket. In this embodiment, the bidirectional control surfaces can be operable to control the orientation and/or flight path of the rocket during both ascent, in a nose-first orientation, and descent, in a tail-first orientation for, e.g., a tail-down landing.


Launch vehicles with ring-shaped external elements, and associated systems and methods are disclosed. An aerospace system in accordance with a particular embodiment includes a launch vehicle having a first end and a second end generally opposite the first end, with the launch vehicle being elongated along a vehicle axis extending between the first and second ends, and having an external, outwardly facing surface. The system can further include an annular element carried by the launch vehicle, the annular element having an external, inwardly-facing surface radially spaced apart from, and extending at least partially circumferentially around, the vehicle axis. The annular element can have a first edge surface facing a first direction along the vehicle axis, and a second edge surface facing a second direction along the vehicle axis, the second direction being opposite the first direction. A propulsion system can be carried by the launch vehicle, and can have at least one nozzle positioned toward the first end of the vehicle to launch the vehicle. A controller can be in communication with the launch vehicle and programmed to direct the vehicle in the first direction during vehicle ascent, and in the second direction during vehicle descent.


Vehicles with control surfaces and associated systems and methods are disclosed. In a particular embodiment, a rocket can include a plurality of bidirectional control surfaces positioned toward an aft portion of the rocket. In this embodiment, the bidirectional control surfaces can be operable to control the orientation and/or flight path of the rocket during both ascent, in a nose-first orientation, and descent, in a tail-first orientation for, e.g., a tail-down landing. Launch vehicles with fixed and deployable deceleration surfaces and associated systems and methods are also disclosed.


Inflatable rings for supporting friction welding workpieces, and associated systems and methods. A support assembly for joining multiple workpieces in a representative embodiment includes a carriage and a generally ring-shaped support member that in turn includes a body and at least one inflatable member carried by the body and positioned to expand from a first configuration to a second configuration.


Launch vehicles (1400) with ring-shaped external elements (1480), and associated systems and methods are disclosed. An aerospace system in accordance with a particular embodiment includes a launch vehicle (1400) having a first end and a second end generally opposite the first end, with the launch vehicle being elongated along a vehicle axis (V) extending between the first and second ends, and having an external, outwardly facing surface. The system further includes an annular element (1480) carried by the launch vehicle, the annular element having an external, inwardly-facing surface radially spaced apart from, and extending at least partially circumferentially around, the vehicle axis. The annular element has a first edge surface facing a first direction along the vehicle axis, and a second edge surface facing a second direction along the vehicle axis, the second direction being opposite the first direction. A propulsion system is carried by the launch vehicle, and has at least one nozzle (1411) positioned toward the first end of the vehicle to launch the vehicle. A controller can be in communication with the launch vehicle and programmed to direct the vehicle in the first direction during vehicle ascent, and in the second direction during vehicle descent.

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