The 'Shuttlecock' Is Now Patented
It was one of the first
true breakthroughs seen in the young commercial spaceflight
industry... and as of last month, it's now patented.
Aero-News learned Monday the revolutionary "shuttlecock," or
"feathering" wing system seen on Burt Rutan's groundbreaking
SpaceShipOne vehicle -- which rotated its empennage to orient the
spacecraft in an optimal attitude for atmospheric reentry --
received US Patent Number 7,195,207 on March 27.
According to the US Patent Office, Rutan now has the rights to a
spacecraft design including "...a fuselage, right and left wings
extending from the fuselage, the wings having hinged aft sections
with outer ends supporting rearwardly extending tail booms with
vertical and horizontal tails with rudders and elevons, and an
elevating system coupled between the fuselage and the aft wing
sections for moving the sections from a normal airfoil shape to an
elevated position producing high drag for slowing the spacecraft
during atmospheric reentry after space flight, the elevating system
thereafter retracting the aft wing sections to the normal airfoil
shape for a controlled generally horizontal runway landing."
"Atmospheric reentry of a returning spacecraft is a critical
flight phase due to high structural and thermal-heating loads," the
summary reads. "Horizontal-landing modern spacecraft intended for
runway landing require three-axis control and more lift as compared
to early blunt-body spacecraft (Mercury, Gemini, etc.), which were
lowered by parachute during landing.
"This invention relates to a winged spacecraft which is
reconfigurable during reentry to a stable high-drag mode, and then
returned to a regular flight condition for runway landing
(shown above -- Ed.)"
"The invention is described in terms of a suborbital spaceship,
but is applicable to craft capable of orbital flight."
That last statement may provide a tantalizing peek at what's to
come, as Rutan's Scaled Composites puts the finishing touches on
SpaceShipTwo -- a larger, multipassenger version of SpaceShipOne,
that will fly for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic. That
spacrcraft is scheduled to begin ferrying passengers into
suborbital space in late 2009.