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Amazon's Bezos Seeks Spacecraft Patents

timothy posted about 3 years ago | from the from-here-it-looks-right-side-up dept.

Patents 71

An anonymous reader writes "Design News reports that Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos is seeking patents related to his 'Blue Origin' commercial space venture. Blue Origin was recently in the news when Bezos quietly admitted that its second test capsule launch in August went out of control at 47,000 feet. The head scratcher with the patents, according to Design News, is that one is for a two-stage rocket, which doesn't seem particularly novel. What is unique, and questionable as to whether it will work, is patent application 20110017872 for 'Sea Landing of Space Launch Vehicles and Associated Systems and Methods.' This one has a reusable rocket going up into suborbital flight, then the booster stage reenters the earth's atmosphere in a tail-first orientation and lands upright on a ship (boat)."

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how is this new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37389266)

How is this new?

Jump jets have been doing it for over 10 years.

Not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37389310)

Uhm, something leaving orbit is plummeting through earth's atmosphere at a velocity which almost nothing else can achieve.

So, no, jump jets have NOT been doing it for over 10 years.

Re:Not really (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#37389372)

Uhm, something leaving orbit is plummeting through earth's atmosphere at a velocity which almost nothing else can achieve.

Ithacus was intended to launch from aircraft carriers for suborbital troop delivery; I don't know whether it was ever intended to land there:

http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/ithacus.htm [astronautix.com]

One click (4, Funny)

Neon Aardvark (967388) | about 3 years ago | (#37389308)

The bit that's missing from the summary is that you can trigger the sea landing with one click.

Re:One click (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37389442)

"The head scratcher with the patents, according to Design News, is that one is for a two-stage rocket, which doesn't seem particularly novel."

They do know it's the Amazon founder trying to patent it right? Not enough novelty won't stop them.

Bad summary (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 3 years ago | (#37397994)

"The head scratcher with the patents, according to Design News, is that one is for a two-stage rocket, which doesn't seem particularly novel."

They do know it's the Amazon founder trying to patent it right? Not enough novelty won't stop them.

According to Design News, one of the patents is for a two-stage rocket. But Design News says nothing about it being a head scratcher or lacking novelty. And yes, while it's for a two-stage rocket, it's for a very specific two-stage rocket with interchangeable combustion chambers between the stages. That's pretty weird and quite likely novel.

Re:Bad summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37406870)

a very specific two-stage rocket with interchangeable combustion chambers between the stages. That's pretty weird and quite likely novel.

Using interchangeable parts in a manufactured object... truly, this is real innovation. What will these patent-powered geniuses come up with next?!

Re:One click (1)

greghodg (1453715) | about 3 years ago | (#37390034)

What's really pushing the envelope here is that this method works both on ships AND boats!

Re:One click (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37393178)

That is immensly funny.

Re:One click (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 3 years ago | (#37395710)

The bit that's missing from the summary is that you can trigger the sea landing with one click.

No the part missing from the summary is the explanation of what a ship is.

Oh, wait, it is there in parenthesis, good thing!

Doesn't have to work (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 3 years ago | (#37389326)

What is unique, and questionable as to whether it will work,...

For better or worse, patents don't have to be functional to work. There's a patent out there from 1970 for a flying saucer powered by a fusion reactor with massive magnetic fields to direct the thrust. Feasible? Obviously not. Novel? Sure is.

And as for a powered landing of a booster stage on a ship, assuming they are talking about a liquid engine power the booster, they've already done short hops showing the ability to take off and land accurately. I don't see any reason why it should be impossible, and it would certainly improve the reusibility compared to having them splash down and get waterlogged after every launch.

Re:Doesn't have to work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37389548)

Uuum, patents are for actual implementations, not for ideas. And sane systems they also require them to be demonstrated to work.

Re:Doesn't have to work (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 3 years ago | (#37390350)

Ummm, patents are for ideas that can be manifested. Not for simply ideas (such as math or logic, unless you perform the math or logic in some physical apparatus). Working or not working is not an issue. No actual manifestation need exist before (or after) the patent is granted. Drawings and words are all the USPTO needs.

Re:Doesn't have to work (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 3 years ago | (#37389822)

For better or worse, patents don't have to be functional to work. There's a patent out there from 1970 for a flying saucer powered by a fusion reactor with massive magnetic fields to direct the thrust. Feasible? Obviously not. Novel? Sure is.

You could've just used one of the many perpetual motion machine patents out there. So many that the patent office has long stopped granting them unless there's a working demonstration available.

Re:Doesn't have to work (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | about 3 years ago | (#37390250)

perpetual motion machine patents ... patent office has long stopped granting them unless there's a working demonstration available.

Very cute...when they find one, let me know.

Re:Doesn't have to work (1)

slashdottedjoe (1448757) | about 3 years ago | (#37390222)

I do not mind them not actually having a working implementation. I worry that vague descriptions without a description of a specific implementations makes for patent trolls. I know that they always try for the most broad range possible, but some patents seem to seem more like generalizations than anything specific.

I suppose I could patent this:

Bovine LCD panels.

Claim 1: Use modified LCD panels to create displays to allow the manipulation of cattle in agricultural and slaughterhouse environments.

I could be quite vague on exactly what wavelengths or polarization schemes I had in mind in my patent, so even when someone comes up with an idea using different techniques from what I have created, their ideas would still fall under my patent.

Too many patents also seem to be nothing more than adding networking to it or using it in a different industry. We need to have it down to a specific quality or technique involved, so we can be certain what the inventor intended and to allow others ample room to innovate without being under continuous assault from patent trolls.

Re:Doesn't have to work (1)

Jonner (189691) | about 3 years ago | (#37390990)

What is unique, and questionable as to whether it will work,...

For better or worse, patents don't have to be functional to work. There's a patent out there from 1970 for a flying saucer powered by a fusion reactor with massive magnetic fields to direct the thrust. Feasible? Obviously not. Novel? Sure is.

That's certainly for the worse. Patents are supposed to be on inventions, not abstract ideas. Originally, a working example had to be submitted when appropriate. The idea that it is possible to own or hold a monopoly on an abstract idea is fundamentally illogical and harmful to innovation. Unfortunately, that's the basis for all "business method" and software patents today. At the moment, I'm not sure if the described spacecraft patents should be valid, but they definitely should not be granted if the craft doesn't work.

Re:Doesn't have to work (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 3 years ago | (#37398026)

What is unique, and questionable as to whether it will work,...

For better or worse, patents don't have to be functional to work. There's a patent out there from 1970 for a flying saucer powered by a fusion reactor with massive magnetic fields to direct the thrust. Feasible? Obviously not. Novel? Sure is.

That's certainly for the worse. Patents are supposed to be on inventions, not abstract ideas. Originally, a working example had to be submitted when appropriate. The idea that it is possible to own or hold a monopoly on an abstract idea is fundamentally illogical and harmful to innovation. Unfortunately, that's the basis for all "business method" and software patents today. At the moment, I'm not sure if the described spacecraft patents should be valid, but they definitely should not be granted if the craft doesn't work.

Why? The spaceship patents certainly aren't for an "abstract idea" like "travelling through space". They're for a very specific spaceship design... albeit one that doesn't work yet.

And why is this a problem? They'll have expired and be in the public domain long before anyone successfully builds one, so these "science fiction" patents give more art to the public. As an aside, most of them expire within a year or two for failure to pay the maintenance fees.

And finally, there's a conceptual catch-22: you say the patent shouldn't be granted because the idea doesn't work... if it doesn't work, then no one can ever infringe the patent, so there's no harm in granting it. And if someone could infringe, then the idea could work, and it would be wrong to deny the patent. Accordingly, denying the patent is only either (i) irrelevant or (ii) improper.

Re:Doesn't have to work (1)

psxndc (105904) | about 3 years ago | (#37394448)

For better or worse, patents don't have to be functional to work.

You may not have to show a working model, but it still has to have a utility.

35 USC 101: Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.

I'll let wikipedia explain it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utility_(patent) [wikipedia.org]

Re:Doesn't have to work (1)

atisss (1661313) | about 3 years ago | (#37397510)

So, every time the US military will shoot a missile to a ship (let's assume North-Korean), they would have to pay patent royalties? Neat idea :)

Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37389332)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you ever knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37389460)

Re:Prior Art (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 3 years ago | (#37390454)

Well, it's no 2001: A Space Odyssey, but if that works for tablet prior art...

But then that's just the crew capsule. You'd have to combine that with other B movies or sci-fi TV series (e.g. The Twilight Zone) where rockets always landed upright (so they could take off again). I don't know of any that had both that and doing it on a carrier.

Seems foolish though. You'd be wasting even more fuel carrying the extra mass in fuel you're going to need to make your safe landing, unless you plan to refuel during your descent, again burning fuel to get fuel to burn.

[on demonstrating Atlantis's gate's energy shield]
McKay: Using power. Using power. Using power.

Not again (1)

Ugarte (42783) | about 3 years ago | (#37389490)

Can we please just burn down the whole patent system and start over before it totally screws up another industry?

And then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37389496)

Having stuck the landing the rocket will take a bow and look to the judges only to receive an 8.6 from the NASA judge. It will then storm off the boat crying.

Landing on a boat? Goodluck. (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 3 years ago | (#37389510)

Aircraft landing is really tough. Many pilots who train for it never get the hang of it. Landing an aircraft on a ship is also one of the most common ways for pilots in the military to die. It's that difficult. Ships, even large ships, are constantly rolling from the waves and currents. Spacecraft are also a really difficult technology. Landing on a ship might be doable in the very far future but right now the technology is nowhere near that. Patents don't need to have working examples, but I can't imagine that this patent will still be in force by the time this sort of technology becomes at all implementable.

Re:Landing on a boat? Goodluck. (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 3 years ago | (#37390380)

If you can land a helicopter on a boat (and you can), then you can land one of Bezos' rockets on a boat.

Re:Landing on a boat? Goodluck. (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 3 years ago | (#37391456)

While landing a helicopter on a ship is common, landing one on a boat is not often done. Mostly they hover above and lower or pick up people using the hoist. Even the largest boats (like the Ohio and Typhoon class SSBNs don't have a large flat area for use as a flight deck since it would be not efficient (and noisy) when submerged.

In the early days of VTOL flight it was discovered that 'tail sitters' were hard to land even for propellor driven vehicles. The pilot can't see what he is doing.
The process of trying to hover a rocket powered plane over a ship while landing seems very dangerous. the exhaust is much hotter than the exhaust of a turbofan (like a Harrier) you might burn a hole in the flight deck.

Anyway I expect there is not likely to be any further government funding for this (deficit reduction is the name of the game in Washington DC these days)

Re:Landing on a boat? Goodluck. (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#37390446)

Aircraft landing is really tough. Many pilots who train for it never get the hang of it.

If I remember correctly, many of the RAF pilots in the Falklands war made their first carrier landings in the war zone with no prior practice at all.

Oh, you mean conventional aircraft which have to crash onto the deck at precisely the right position so that a big piece of cable can pull them to a stop? Yeah, that's probably true, but it's a heck of a lot harder than landing something that can hover and just has to shut down the engines when the landing gear touches.

Re:Landing on a boat? Goodluck. (1)

phayes (202222) | about 3 years ago | (#37390448)

Aircraft landing is really tough. ... Landing on a ship might be doable in the very far future but right now the technology is nowhere near that.

Your misguided attempt to compare CTOL carrier aircraft with a VTOL just shows that you don't understand the two enough to make a valid comparison. As Helicopters have shown for over half a century, landing on a ship is not particularly difficult once you can land vertically. The Brits even showed 25 years ago that they could operate harriers from their much smaller carriers in sea conditions that would have shut down CTOL operations from a supercarrier.

Bezos wouuld certainly avoid landing during any sea-state over dead calm initially but would certainly work up to landing in minor sea-states or deploy landing pad two ships in normally calm regions that are far enough apart to avoid needing to be shutdown at the same time.

Re:Landing on a boat? Goodluck. (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 3 years ago | (#37390652)

Yeah, that's a very good point. Since this is intended to be a vertical landing system my worry is groundless.

Re:Landing on a boat? Goodluck. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37392984)

And since it's intended to land on a ship at sea, your worry is groundless.

Re:Landing on a boat? Goodluck. (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 3 years ago | (#37393596)

Landing on a ship might be doable in the very far future but right now the technology is nowhere near that

The Navy has been automatically landing F/A 18's on air craft carriers automatically for at least a decade. You can find declassified reports from the Navy online about them.

IIRC, the systems are designed for 30' waves and full cruising speed.

Sea Landing of Space Launch Vehicle (1)

sosume (680416) | about 3 years ago | (#37389656)

Sounds awfully like a process and not a device. One-click all over again! At least this will be gone in 20 years as well.

Prior art from 1967 (1)

tomhudson (43916) | about 3 years ago | (#37389800)

The Reluctant Astronaut, starring Don Knotts [imdb.com] from 1967, has the spacecraft landing on the carrier deck, unseen, while everyone is busy looking out to sea.

Re:Prior art from 1967 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37389964)

Already linked to pertinent scene, prior to your post: http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2425974&cid=37389460

Re:Sea Landing of Space Launch Vehicle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37396482)

it's perfectly legit to get a patent on a process. shut your pie hole.

Ought to just come down to thrust and... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37389858)

control system response. Infinite thrust availability combined with infinitesimally short feedback loops, and you can land on a dime, baby.

Oh, and the fuselage has to be able to handle the high-order accelerations.

Re:Ought to just come down to thrust and... (1)

venril (905197) | about 3 years ago | (#37390340)

Plus you're lifting all the fuel for the trip up and back, plus margin, in a bird that's a lot heavier that it should be (typical liquid fueled rockets are not exactly structurally robust, much integrity is derived from the pressure in the tank...Think soda can; full it'll carry quite a lot. Empty, heh, crunch.

It'll be big.

And land on a ship from a sub orbital ballistic... Are they also patenting unbounded optimism?

LOL. Which SciFi writer gamed this out, L. Ron? Jeezus, just build simple expendable solid boosters... Didn't they learn anything from the shuttle program?

Why land on a boat? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 3 years ago | (#37389882)

What's the advantage of landing on a boat? If they want to have a (relatively soft) cushion of water to catch the capsule if it misses the target, then it seems like a shallow lake (natural or man-made) with a landing platform in the middle would work better. A small lake would have no pitching seas to contend with, and in the event of a catastrophe, help can arrive faster and it's easier to bring up wreckage from a shallow 20 foot lake then 200 feet of sea water with currents that spread it around.

There's a limited set of circumstances where water would be a softer landing anyway. The capsule would have to be moving at a very low velocity, otherwise water is not much better than concrete.

If they just want to catch the capsule if it tips off the landing platform, it seems that some sort of collapsible foam would be safer and more effective - no worries about the threat of drowning if the capsule starts to leak.

Re:Why land on a boat? (1)

rmstar (114746) | about 3 years ago | (#37390058)

What's the advantage of landing on a boat?

The advantage of being able to land on a boat is being able to land almost everywhere on the sea, which is quite large. This gives a lot of flexibility when planing trajectories.

Re:Why land on a boat? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#37390180)

The advantage of being able to land on a boat is being able to land almost everywhere on the sea

So long as there's a boat there.

which is quite large.

But boats are quite small.

This gives a lot of flexibility when planing trajectories.

It means you can only land where there's a boat. I don't really call that 'a lot of flexibility'.

NASA tried the landing on the water thing and I believe that their new capsules are designed to land on land because having to have boats near the landing site turned out to be extremely expensive and complex.

Re:Why land on a boat? (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 3 years ago | (#37390528)

NASA tried the landing on the water thing and I believe that their new capsules are designed to land on land because having to have boats near the landing site turned out to be extremely expensive and complex.

Six of one is a half dozen of another. The water thing went quite well for NASA except maybe one incident (Liberty Bell 7). The nice thing about water landings is that the human population density of the oceans is practically zero therefore it has a larger safety margin for ground population.

BTW NASA's Orion MPCV capsules are designed for water landing.

Re:Why land on a boat? (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 years ago | (#37390554)

BTW NASA's Orion MPCV capsules are designed for water landing.

If I remember correctly, they were flip-flopping between land and water landings throughout the development, and the water landing would have been restricted to a few sites which didn't require maintaining a big fleet of ships to pick up the crew. This wouldn't have been an Apollo mission with recovery ships positioned around the globe ready to collect them from wherever they landed.

Re:Why land on a boat? (1)

Taty'sEyes (2373326) | about 3 years ago | (#37390062)

There is probably a DARPA requirement to land on a ship (boat). That is usually how this stuff gets specified.

Re:Why land on a boat? (1)

idontgno (624372) | about 3 years ago | (#37392630)

That might have been misinterpreted. DARPA was probably looking for an surface-to-surface ballistic anti-ship missile. Blue Origin misunderstood the RFP to mean "soft-landing" on a ship, not "guaranteed kill".

Re:Why land on a boat? (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 3 years ago | (#37390072)

I'm pretty sure they're not worried about anyone drowning if the booster stage that landed on the boat tips over. They're just trying to recover their launch vehicle.

That being said, this is a perfect example of bad patents hindering innovation. There's nothing novel about landing a rocket booster on a ship. There's no reason someone should have to pay a licensing fee if they want to recover their launch vehicle by having it land on a ship.

Re:Why land on a boat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37393436)

The main advantage of landing on a ship would be that the engines would not be subjected to sea water exposure (corrosive). Also, if you slap down in the water you tend to bend the things you want to reuse.

Re:Why land on a boat? (1)

Rumata (98457) | about 3 years ago | (#37395038)

I have not been involved with the system lay-out, but I can see the allure. Landing at sea helps, because:
- The population density is lower, i.e. it's easier to show that your landing doesn't endanger the un-involved public.
- Your landing point is relatively free, so you can return from varied orbits without needing excessive cross-range.

Why would you want to land _on_ the support ship/barge as opposed next to it?
- Dunking stuff into sea-water is harsh on said stuff. It can be designed around, but it constrains choices of materials etc. While solving an already hard problem additional constraints of these sorts are best avoided.
- Ships can be built in ways to almost eliminate wave-action, which would impose more (and more varied) structural loads in a water landing.

Is all this worth the trade-off of having to pull of a precision landing every time, and having to maintain/operate/design an (expensive, possibly custom) support ship?

I don't know. Mr. Bezos might know more, but I doubt that he knows for sure either.

Cheers,
Michael

Ask R.Goddard - patents go poof when the gov't (1)

tekrat (242117) | about 3 years ago | (#37390012)

Ask R.Goddard - patents go poof when the gov't requires it.... When the Soviets launched Sputnik and the cold war suddenly became a race to the high ground of space, do you think the USA spent ONE DIME to compensate the patent holder for a lot of rocket technology?

What's amazing is that the government we trust to uphold the "law" is the most frequent violator of that law when it suits their agenda. Of course, our recent history is filled with examples in just the last decade alone.

Point is: If there was actually anything 'useful' in any of these patents, you can rest assured that the military will use and abuse anything that they can without any kind of fear that the patent holder will sue.

Patents in this case are kind of like auto insurance, it's something you pay for, and then find out how useless it is when you actually need it.

Re:Ask R.Goddard - patents go poof when the gov't (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 3 years ago | (#37390430)

You're forgetting that, like a license to drive, a patent is a government issued privilege, not a right. They can be revoked like that [*snaps fingers*].

Re:Ask R.Goddard - patents go poof when the gov't (2)

blair1q (305137) | about 3 years ago | (#37390460)

Actually, you have it backwards re Goddard.

The government was developing missiles and rockets, and Goddard thought they infringed, so he filed for royalties (or rather, his widow did, since he died during WW2).

The government, as is its nature, dragged its feet.

But when Sputnik flew, the government shat its pants and expedited paying Goddard's estate for the patents so that it could accelerate its rocketry programs.

Re:Ask R.Goddard - patents go poof when the gov't (1)

Jonner (189691) | about 3 years ago | (#37391062)

Ask R.Goddard - patents go poof when the gov't requires it.... When the Soviets launched Sputnik and the cold war suddenly became a race to the high ground of space, do you think the USA spent ONE DIME to compensate the patent holder for a lot of rocket technology?

I'm sure they were spending too much money and time wooing Nazi slavers to think of Goddard. It's really funny how fast Nazis switched from being evil incarnate to our best hope against the godless Communists, who had been our only hope against the Nazis.

Glad you cleared that up. (1)

Taty'sEyes (2373326) | about 3 years ago | (#37390018)

"...a ship (boat)." Thanks, I was confused.

Re:Glad you cleared that up. (1)

blair1q (305137) | about 3 years ago | (#37390474)

As opposed to what? "A ship (rocket)?" No such thing! Ludicrous! Fitty cent!

US Patent # 45728492 (Bezos J) (1)

presidenteloco (659168) | about 3 years ago | (#37390098)

A Device That Goes Up but does not Come Down

Variation 1: A Device That Goes Up But Splits Into Multiple Components Before Coming Down

Re:US Patent # 45728492 (Bezos J) (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 3 years ago | (#37390334)

These is a follow on patent to

Rapid acceleration of rocket propelled device
  1) As a single unit
  2) In multiple directions simultaneously

and

Novel method for core sampling of desert soils utilizing ballistic trajectory of rocket propelled craft

Re:US Patent # 45728492 (Bezos J) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37390674)

A Device That Goes Up but does not Come Down

Already patented in 1957 by Wernher von Braun. You may have better luck patenting rockets that DO come down, Wernher didn't care about those, they were someone else's department.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEJ9HrZq7Ro

Re:US Patent # 45728492 (Bezos J) (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | about 3 years ago | (#37391174)

Variation 1: A Device That Goes Up But Splits Into Multiple Components Before Coming Down

So, like, many of the stocks from the dot com era?

Next up from Bezos (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37390194)

Patent 3872673: Autoerotic Stimulation Of Human Genitalia
Patent 3872677: Autoerotic Stimulation Of Human Genitalia To Climax
Patent 3872662: Cleaning Up Remnants Of Autoerotic Stimulation Of Human Genitalia (Procedure)

Check Sinking a Large Boat w/tank of rocket fuel (2)

leftie (667677) | about 3 years ago | (#37390452)

Maybe the patent is under Method for "Sinking a large ship with a container of rocket fuel."
Landing a rocket on a boat doesn't look like the wisest way to move rocket technology forward.
How about landing the rocket in the water next to the boat.

Re:Check Sinking a Large Boat w/tank of rocket fue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37391852)

It's called "barge landing" and the idea has been around for years. Look, Paul Breed (he has built hovering rockets for the Lunar Lander Challenge) talked about this very patent in January 2011: http://unreasonablerocket.blogspot.com/2011/01/open-message-for-blue-origin.html

The idea is that your rocket doesn't get wet and salty which would mean washing and dismantling and inspection and rebuild and retest and what ever in the worst case. You also don't need to fish it out of the water and all the other things. Armadillo Aerospace has demonstrated precision rocket landings for years, as have Masten Space and many others (Unreasonable Rocket, JAXA, McDonnell Douglas).

Why do you want to land away from land in the first place? Because, firstly, most of the Earth is ocean. So if you start from a cozy launch point x, a thousand km down range (east) you are somewhere in the sea (especially if you don't want to be in a neighbouring country). Also, there are fewer people there so it's safer and cheaper. Almost all space rockets are launched eastwards over ocean.

The other Blue Origin patent that wasn't explained for some reason (it's not hard to understand once you sort out the chaff) is about recycling old engines from reusable first stages to expendable upper stages after some amount of uses. Probably it'd be really easy to find prior mentions of that idea too, on usenet archives or some NASA papers or something else.

Re:Check Sinking a Large Boat w/tank of rocket fue (1)

cHiphead (17854) | about 3 years ago | (#37391952)

A form of latching device such as robotic actuator arms latch onto the landing vehicle as it descends above or to the side of the landing platform, allowing for minimal damage to the involved equipment and other claims. (Patent Pending.)

Re:Check Sinking a Large Boat w/tank of rocket fue (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 3 years ago | (#37395700)

Then why do it on a boat? Why not a solid structure on land? Surely the boat cannot propel itself fast enough to actually catch the falling spacecraft and it is the spacecraft's responsibility to hit the boat.

First-to-file (1)

quacking duck (607555) | about 3 years ago | (#37390524)

Did the US or anyone ever file a patent on the systems used in Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, space shuttle, and other spacecraft?

No? Then do the new "first to file" laws allow a private "inventor" to be granted patents on this obviously prior art (paid by taxpayers, no less)?

Re:First-to-file (1)

psxndc (105904) | about 3 years ago | (#37396570)

No it does not! Stop spreading this bullshit FUD that somehow prior art trumping a patent magically disappears when first-to-file hits. That's not the way it works at all.

First to file just gets rids of the ability to swear behind someone else's application if they filed up to a year before you filed yours. Under FtF, if there is prior art out there that is dead on before your application is filed, even a day before, your application is DOA. There is no more one year grace period.

Go read this if you don't believe me.

http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2011/09/the-effects-of-the-america-invents-act-on-technological-disclosure.html [patentlyo.com]

You have no fucking clue what you are talking about and you are the second person on here that I have seen spouting off that somehow prior art is no longer prior art. This place USED to be where intelligent people had intelligent debates. Now it's FOX News of the tech world.

He should also patent delusional optimism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37390958)

and whatever financial legerdemain that allows such an obvious scam as "private space flight" to generate revenue.

51 comments... and no discussion of the two-stage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37391536)

While you guys were going "LOL we're gonna need a bigger boat", I skimmed the claims of the two-stage patent application (20100326045 [faqs.org] ).

Basically, the novel element in each claim is some parts commonality (uising the same engine, more or less) for the first and second stage. Variations in specific claims include reusing the first-stage motor to propel the second stage, recovering a used first-stage motor to use as a second stage motor (or vice versa) on the next launch, or using multiple engines for the first stage, and one identical engine for the second stage.

I'm pretty sure I've seen some of these published exactly in the '90s (specifically the multi-engine first stage, single-engine second stage and the first-stage/second-stage motor reuse), and even if not, using multiple motors in the first stage, single motor in the second stage, is surely obvious from the Saturn V's use of 5 J-2 motors in the second stage and 1 J-2 in the third stage.

So guys, can we let up on the "OMG boatz0rs!", read the patent, and discuss any prior art you know of?

WTF? (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | about 3 years ago | (#37391776)

From the application:
"16. The method of claim 11, further comprising: turning off the one or more rocket engines after separating the payload from the booster stage; moving an aerodynamic control surface on the booster stage to at least partially control a flight path of the booster stage toward the platform based on platform positional information received from the platform; moving the aerodynamic control surface on the booster stage to at least partially reorient the booster stage from the nose-first orientation to a tail-first orientation; and after reorienting the booster stage, reigniting the one or more rocket engines positioned toward the aft end portion of the booster stage, wherein landing the booster stage includes performing a powered, vertical landing of the booster stage on the platform."

They DO realize it will require more fuel to land this thing then launch it, right? They will be launching a huge amount of fuel into near-orbit only to use it for slowing the craft?

What the fuck is wrong with a parachute?

Hell, they could use some sort of massive modified para-sail and even guide it to the landing platform. And why not just make the thing able to withstand water and land it directly in the water and simply load it up into a floating drydock? The Glomar Explorer would have been perfect, but it's out drilling for oil these days?

Seriously, guys. No need to patent everything that comes out of the Saturday night pot sessions.

Quit now Bezos (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37393908)

He should quit and buy out Armadillo Aerospace:)
http://www.armadilloaerospace.com/n.x/Armadillo/Home

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