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SpaceX Challenges Blue Origin Patents Over Sea-Landing Rocket Tech

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the system-and-method-for-not-quite-slipping-the-surly-bonds-of-earth dept.

Patents 75

speedplane writes: Last week, Elon Musk's SpaceX fired two challenges (PDFs) at Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin over U.S. Patent 8,678,321, entitled "Sea landing of space launch vehicles and associated systems and methods." The patent appears to cover a method of landing a rocket on a floating platform at sea. In their papers, SpaceX says that "by 2009, the earliest possibly priority date listed on the face of the patent, the basic concepts of 'rocket science' were well known and widely understood. The "rocket science" claimed in the '321 patent was, at best, 'old hat[.]'" Blue Origin has approximately three months to file a preliminary response to the challenge. You can review the litigation documents here and here. (Disclosure: I run the website hosting several of the above documents.)

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Would it really be worse without patents? (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#47809579)

I mean, I understand the idea of rewarding people for inventing useful things, but is it really worth all the nonsense actual inventors have to suffer these days?

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 months ago | (#47809651)

I so wish I had posted a few years ago when I first thought that SpaceX should land on a barge or ship instead of land.
Boy does this seem to fail the obvious test.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 3 months ago | (#47809779)

I so wish I had posted a few years ago when I first thought that SpaceX should land on a barge or ship instead of land.

You know, if you can land the craft on land, how is this much different from landing it on a platform?

I mean, the game Lunar Lander is how old? The idea of using retro-rockets to slow your descent onto where you're landing is literally decades old, and was probably shown in early sci-fi shows.

I'm having a hard time understanding how this patent could possibly be adding anything new.

As usual, I hear about the patent system and think "yeah, right, and the monkeys who approve patents get paid for being morons."

Hell, I should think landing a helicopter on a ship or a barge is pretty much all you need to invalidate this. Or Flash Gordon. Or any number of things which have been showing a tail-first landing for the last 50+ years.

Big deal, that flat surface is now a floating platform ... that doesn't change a damned thing about the fact that this is exactly the same as any other VTOL type scenario. Applying thrust is all that's really at play here, and that's just straight physics.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 3 months ago | (#47809833)

I mean, the game Lunar Lander is how old? The idea of using retro-rockets to slow your descent onto where you're landing is literally decades old, and was probably shown in early sci-fi shows.

The game "Lunar Lander" is, interestingly, about ten years younger than the ACTUAL lunar lander (game - 1979, Apollo 11 - 1969).

And yes, it was shown in early scifi films. Not sure if early Flash Gordon serials showed it, but it was certainly in use in scifi by the '50s.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47810727)

try THIS and get back to me

Eagle Lander 3D

http://eaglelander3d.com/

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47813055)

Not sure if early Flash Gordon serials showed it, but it was certainly in use in scifi by the '50s.

It's been too long since I've read the books, but in the serials I recall the ships took off and landed like planes, with a really bad "buzzing" drive sound reminiscent of German WW2 Buzz-Bombs. But it was definitely shown in 50's/60's scifi such as "First spaceship on Venus" & "Rocketship XM".

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47809953)

You know, if you can land the craft on land, how is this much different from landing it on a platform?

Land doesn't move significantly on short time scales.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (3, Insightful)

alvinrod (889928) | about 3 months ago | (#47809713)

Probably not, but the typical counter argument is that if there's no protections at all the little guys can be immediately squashed by the existing industry titans who can use their existing infrastructure advantages to crush any new-comers who lack any legal protection for their inventions.

Of course the counter-counter argument is that the patent laws are so bad that this is happening anyway because trolls can threaten anyone with millions of dollars in legal expenses over a patent that's not terribly good (or possibly even relevant to the case at all) which ends up crushing the new-comers anyways.

There's probably a happy middle-ground, but most people are too firmly in one camp or another to ever try to compromise and the government in general cares so little about the issue that they won't bother to develop a fix, and even if there's a perfectly good system that someone conceives and then proves (by some rigorous method) to be an ideal solution, there will still be someone who complains because the current system suits them better and they can probably buy a Congress critter or three, so good luck there.

However, the unwritten rule seems to be that the litigation will drag on for so long, that you may as well just knowingly infringe, even if it's a perfectly good and reasonable patent, simply because the opportunity to gain industry position and reach the point where you can throw your own weight around is worth far more than the actual costs your company will actually incur once the legal dust settles. For example, Apple and Samsung are still fighting over phones that have in some cases been off the market for years at this point and it could be several years before each side has exhausted all of their appeals, countersuits, motions to complain (or whatever the actual legal term might be), etc.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (5, Interesting)

rahvin112 (446269) | about 3 months ago | (#47809995)

It costs about 3 million dollars to take a patent case to court. No small business with a patent that's being violated can sue the big boys over patents because they can't afford the legal expenses. My uncle ran a business that sold a patented item to the mining business. Because the business was small they contracted with a larger company to produce the product using the small business input materials. The bigger business would routinely produce the patented item using the small business materials and was selling them in direct competition to the small business.

No matter how loud or how threatening my Uncle could be would intimidate the larger business because the lawsuit would bankrupt the smaller business and they'd just buy them out cheaper than their value (they told him as much when he was trying to stop them). There was literally nothing he could do because the value of the goods though a lot of money to the small business wasn't anywhere near the cost of the suit. The larger business made a point of producing just a small enough number of items for themselves that it would never be enough money to draw a lawyer in on contingency. Because they were pretty much the only company in the US that could produce the items he was screwed either way.

Like much of the legal system in this country it's become too expensive and too complicated for small businesses to go after larger ones. This applies especially to patents. Patents are not being used by small inventors.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about 3 months ago | (#47810253)

This. The north-american justice system is so fucked up that in practice there is no justice at all. North-americans are in practice at your own risk in the market with no protection of justice, where whoever has the most money is who wins per more wrong he is.

(The legal system is as broken as google translator, the damn thing is crap)

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47810263)

out of curiosity did your uncle actualy here the "it's not worth it" from a lawyer or did he take the company that was violating his patent at their word?

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | about 3 months ago | (#47812475)

He spoke to several lawyers, all of them told him it would cost him more to sue than his company was worth. None would consider a contingency suit because the damages would never cover the legal fees even at 100%.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (0)

gnupun (752725) | about 3 months ago | (#47810287)

And how much would your uncle have made if he had no patent on the product and three big companies had copied his IP and were manufacturing and selling the product? The big company here allegedly and brazenly committed a crime because they could get away with it. They could potentially face consequences down the line. Are many companies stupid enough to willingly infringe patents?

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (1)

Gription (1006467) | about 3 months ago | (#47811211)

I know a guy that has patents for a wheel centercap that always shows the car's emblem upright. Basically it has a weight and bearings to insure that it doesn't turn with the wheel. Kind of cool item for anal car nuts. He also holds international patents for the same.

Some time after he started producing center caps for the aftermarket Rolls Royce starts putting the same type of non rotating center caps on their cars. His attorney approached them and tried to pursue getting some type of licensing, damages, or cease and desist, and ended up out his considerable attorney fees.

So to the question of "Are many companies stupid enough to willingly infringe patents? ...
Uhhh, yeah. Pretty much all of them.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (1)

gnupun (752725) | about 3 months ago | (#47818891)

Are you telling me the upright center cap in this rolls royce youtube video is patented by your acquaintance?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

That is it... (1)

Gription (1006467) | about 3 months ago | (#47822295)

Yup. That is it. He holds U.S. and international patents which they have blatantly ignored and his legal challenge was met with lawyers that basically made it into $ vs $$$$ and $$$$ wins.

(Told him he should find a high end patent attorney to take the case on contingency. He is so fed up with attorneys that he would rather shoot the next one he sees rather then talk to one more. He says he will never patent another thing.)

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (2)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 3 months ago | (#47810377)

Patents are still useful for small businesses because it provides protection against someone else coming along and patenting your product after the fact. This is more important than ever now that the US has abandoned the first-to-invent principle to determine patent validity.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 months ago | (#47811487)

Patents are still useful for small businesses because it provides protection against someone else coming along and patenting your product after the fact.

Not really. They grant patents which conflict with existing patents all the time, and you still need to be able to take a suit to court to prove that the subsequent patent should not have been granted, which means you still need millions of dollars in your legal fund.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (2)

Ksevio (865461) | about 3 months ago | (#47811609)

You're saying patents are useful because they prevent people from patents? I think I can see a solution that could fix this issue - better patent it right away!

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (1)

impossiblefork (978205) | about 3 months ago | (#47810553)

I've heard this kind of argument on Slashdot, where it is claimed that patents aren't for small inventors or as in your case, that they small inventors do not use them, and attempted to counter it then, that time with examples of small inventors. I believe that it is quite false. I will now engage in some self-plagiarism and list those same inventors again, since their inventions are still among those which capture the mechanically oriented parts of my imagination the most and because I've already committed this self-plagiarism this morning in Swedish.

The first one is a English professor, Kais Atallah, whose invention was a type of magnetic gear, to which he got he obtained a patent, enabling the production to be funded. The second Torbjörn Lembke, whose invention was a magnetic bearing. He had worked in industry, both, I believe, on different kinds of magnetic bearings and on other advanced electrical machines, had an idea for an improvement of today's magnetic bearings, wrote a PhD dissertation on it, patented it before publishing and presently manufactures it, after having gotten funding.

You might not call these real garage inventors, but I have a last example. Glenn Thompson, an Australian programmer, who, after what must have been quite careful thought, found a way to make a new kind of constant velocity joint (now called a Thompson Coupling). He patented this, having gotten the patent, got investors and has now," "having gotten funded, been manufacturing and selling these joints for some years.

If it weren't for patents these people would likely have obtained minimal reward for their work. If you have an invention, patents do protect it. You might say that they if they were "real small inventors" wouldn't have money to sue, but I imagine that such even a small inventor, with no money and only a good patent, would even in America, be able to take his case to court and win with enough probability to deter patent infringement. At worst such an inventor might be forced to find a lawyer to take his case on contingency.

As stated in the introduction I've essentially varied a previous post [slashdot.org] , but since what you wrote is so similar to what I responded to I felt that this was acceptable.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47811029)

These are all folks who had gone through the pesky detail of actuallly figuring out how to really make one.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (2)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about 3 months ago | (#47811083)

You completely ignored the crux of the problem: For the small inventor file lawsuits against patent infringement, he must pay. And need to pay a lot, probably more than he will see in life being a small inventor.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47811207)

I know some small inventor that sold it's patent to a patent troll while retaining enough rights to have a free licensing of the technology, that's because he was unable to go to court for some big violator. Actually it gained more that what it wanted for a license.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#47810783)

Of course the counter-counter argument is that the patent laws are so bad that this is happening anyway because trolls can threaten anyone with millions of dollars in legal expenses over a patent that's not terribly good (or possibly even relevant to the case at all) which ends up crushing the new-comers anyways.

The patent laws aren't necessarily bad. (Although the recent first-to-file rule sure as hell isn't good.) It's that they're not being enforced.

These people should never have been given a patent. It's so obviously invalid I have to wonder whether the patent examiner was a grade-schooler working in his spare time. That doesn't mean the law is bad, it means the law wasn't followed.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (2)

currently_awake (1248758) | about 3 months ago | (#47813287)

We should replace the patent system with a mandatory royalty system. You invent something, everyone can use your discovery but they must pay royalties to you for a fixed time period.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47814891)

That's a patent... and it doesn't work.

Patent Troll Just Like Amazon (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 3 months ago | (#47810571)

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin has not and never will launch a rocket. Like Amazon, it is a Patent Troll.

SpaceX is actually doing things in space. Blue Origin is just the money hungry Bezos looking for more money without actually doing anything to deserve it.

Re:Patent Troll Just Like Amazon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47811261)

How does Elon's shit taste? Just keep sucking his asshole, fanfag.

Re:Patent Troll Just Like Amazon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47811683)

It tastes like... victory.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#47810749)

Patents are supposed to be for inventions, not just "useful things".

The problems we have been experiencing have not been due to the idea of patents, they are due to deliberate abuse of the patent system, and the relative incompetence of patent examiners today.

ANY system I am aware of can be abused. That doesn't mean the concept of the system is invalid.

Just like corporations today have abused their corporate money to lobby Congress and form virtual monopolies and oligopolies. That doesn't mean the concept of capitalism is flawed. It's a pretty good analogy. Actual capitalism requires antitrust laws, and requires them to be enforced. Lack of enforcement doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the idea of capitalism, it just means the politicians are corrupt bastards. Two different things.

In the same way, giving patents to shysters isn't attributable to the concept of patents. It just means the system isn't functioning the way it was designed to function. It functioned just fine for a very long time.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (2)

queazocotal (915608) | about 3 months ago | (#47812349)

'Patents are supposed to be for inventions, not just "useful things".'

Quite.

Patents were originally meant to be a trade - you got protection in exchange for showing how your device worked that may take months or years to reinvent.

You should never, ever be able to get a patent for being the first to come up with a problem, and doing the obvious solution.

This is especially the case if that solution took you less time than a full and proper patent search to see if that solution was already patented.

If that is the case, the patent system is _completely_broken_.

I can see the argument for patents that have some extreme and brilliant novelty to them.
But patents that are basically obvious restatements of the problem that the designer was facing - followed by the obvious solution - should result in the applicant getting set on fire.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#47814385)

Yes, I don't disagree. Part of my point was that too many patents are being awarded for things that should never even have been really considered.

EFF has a "stupid patent of the month" section on their website.

Re:Would it really be worse without patents? (1)

david_thornley (598059) | about 3 months ago | (#47820007)

Patents were originally meant to be a trade - you got protection in exchange for showing how your device worked that may take months or years to reinvent.

Ever read the part of the patent that describes how to make the patented thing? I've glanced at some software patents. Although I am at least ordinarily skilled in the art, I would have a very hard time figuring out how to implement them, and in at least one case it would not have worked as described without considerably more innovation than the patent had.

Bezos? Patent troll? (3, Insightful)

MAXOMENOS (9802) | about 3 months ago | (#47809681)

Whodathunk?

Re:Bezos? Patent troll? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47809931)

Does Blue Origin qualify as a patent troll? They're still doing their own R&D with the goal of building their own rockets, aren't they?

Re:Bezos? Patent troll? (0)

MAXOMENOS (9802) | about 3 months ago | (#47810799)

I don't doubt that Blue Origin, like Bezos's most famous project (Amazon), is constantly engaged in R&D. But like Amazon, it appears that Blue Origin is trying to patent stuff that shouldn't be patented (in this case because of prior art). That's patent troll behavior.

Bob Truax did it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47809735)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R... [wikipedia.org]

Like, 40 years ago.

Re:Bob Truax did it (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 3 months ago | (#47809827)

Did he? I see references to sea launching in his page, not sea landings, which is what this patent is for. Again, I don't know any more than what you've linked, so it's possible he did, but the page you linked doesn't corroborate your claim.

Re:Bob Truax did it (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 3 months ago | (#47810089)

This is basically something "______, BUT AT SEA" patent model.

Re:Bob Truax did it (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 3 months ago | (#47810159)

I was merely pointing out that the claim it had already been done by Bob Traux wasn't substantiated by the link. You shouldn't take that to mean that I think the patent is in any way novel or valid, because I most certainly do not.

Re:Bob Truax did it (2)

TheCarp (96830) | about 3 months ago | (#47810299)

The proper term for something that you want to sell at an extraordinary price because it is meant to be used "at sea" is "Marine", it works similarly to the word "Bridal" in that adding it to a product instantly increases its salable value.

Re:Bob Truax did it (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 3 months ago | (#47810179)

So what. Once you have flyback capability it is bleeping obvious. Ever seen the Ithacus [astronautix.com] concept from 1966?

Re:Bob Truax did it (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 3 months ago | (#47810297)

You're reading something into my comment that I didn't put there. I was pointing out that the AC's claim wasn't substantiated by his link. Nothing more. You're preaching to the choir when it comes to thinking that this patent is invalid and that others have already done it before, but that shouldn't stop us from fact-checking claims that we believe support our side, which is all that I was doing here.

Re:Bob Truax did it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47810875)

He didn't, but neither has anyone else. I was, poorly, pointing out that a prior claim exists.

A true Clash of the Douchebags (0)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 3 months ago | (#47809819)

Musk vs. Bezos? So many egos...So hard to choose which to loathe slightly less in this fight.

Re:A true Clash of the Douchebags (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 3 months ago | (#47809991)

Musk. Definitely. At least the manifestations of Musk's ego will (potentially) lead good things. Bezos just seems like he wants his company to be a monopoly in all the things.

Re:A true Clash of the Douchebags (2)

Talderas (1212466) | about 3 months ago | (#47810541)

Musk is pursuing technologies that will, arguably, make our world better.

Bezos is a profit hound seeking to maximize revenue by driving further consumerism.

And that's science stifled. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47809861)

Wondering what it looks like when private industry is involved in the management of aerospace, rather than contracted out to do the specific jobs at which individual companies excel?

This.

Bring back pre-1980s technocratically managed NASA aerospace research, please. Let private industry fill in the detail, as it's always done best, but do not give them control.

Re:And that's science stifled. (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 months ago | (#47810031)

Uh, dude, anyone could have patented this at any time. Blue Origin aren't actually landing anything on barges, they're just patenting it so no-one else can. SpaceX are the only ones who can actually do it, but the Patent Office says 'no, you can't be allowed to do that, someone else filled in the paperwork first'.

Personally, I was wondering what SpaceX were going to do about this patent when they first suggested a test landing on a barge.

Learn from History, Please (4, Interesting)

Tokolosh (1256448) | about 3 months ago | (#47809863)

Re:Learn from History, Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47810105)

single vs. double clik patent variation.

So instead of landing on sea platform on one try, just touch down on water and skip like a rock onto the sea platform. Or bounce off the water on the next wave to lift one up onto the platform. (aka double clicking or landing in this case)

Re:Learn from History, Please (2)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about 3 months ago | (#47810295)

Is the "american way". Stealing ideas, patent them and then force everyone to pay to use their "innovations".

Re:Learn from History, Please (4, Interesting)

Solandri (704621) | about 3 months ago | (#47810393)

The USPTO really needs to insist that patents be for an implementation of an idea, not the general concept. That was the problem with the Wright Brothers' patent - it basically covered the concept of moving surfaces as flight controls, even though the Wright Brothers' implementation via wing warping was something nobody else did nor does today. It hindered U.S. development of aircraft enough that by the time WWI came about, the U.S. was technologically behind the rest of the world [century-of-flight.net] partly because of the patent.

Likewise, if Bezos wants to patent an implementation of landing a rocket at sea, by all means he should be free to do so. But he should not be able to patent the concept of landing a rocket at sea.

Re: Learn from History, Please (1)

Redbehrend (3654433) | about 3 months ago | (#47810675)

General idea patients are just horseshit... If musk loses he'll just buy/lease an island and the US will lose out in more money. Lol

Re:Learn from History, Please (1)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | about 3 months ago | (#47813033)

I've expressed this sentiment as: you should be allowed to patent (non-obvious) solutions, you should never be allowed to patent a problem.

However, my expression of the issue is poorly defined as the problem/solution boundary is not clear. Is the problem "reusing rocket hardware" and "landing at sea" the solution, or is "reusing rocket hardware which is naturally coming down into the sea" the problem and "guiding it to the landing platform and securing it" the solution?

You use "concept" and "implementation" where I use "problem" and "solution", but the boundary issue will still exist. (Which is not to say that we shouldn't try.)

Re:Learn from History, Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47814771)

Wow.. I knew the story but you really hit it home with: "the Wright Brothers' implementation via wing warping was something nobody else did nor does today."
Thanks.

Seems beatable (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47809967)

A patent is a bargain, you teach your secrets in exchange for a limited exclusive use of them.

This patent teaches next to nothing that wasn't already known in the 50 or 60's.
    It says what to do, but the devil is in the details of how to do it which is not taught.
    To actually do the work and make this work would no doubt require figuring out new stuff which is missing.

If SpaceX were to do this, the fact that they got patents on the new stuff seems an existence proof
      that the original patent did not actually show how a rocket scientist reasonably skilled in the art could do it.

If the original patent did not teach the secrets (likely because they did not actually know how to do it at the time) then original patent did not meet it's part of the bargain and should be withdrawn.

As an engineer, it would be nice if actually doing the work and explaining how you did it should trump staking you claim on some technology you likely don't know how to actually make work.

I won't hold my breath, the patent lawyers can certainly outlast me. Sigh...

Those who can, Do. Those who cant, patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47809975)

The problem I see is that Blue Orgin can't actually do any of the things claimed in the patent, whereas Spacex has done the development work and can do it. If I am not mistaken, Spacex had talked about recovering boosters this way years ago, it just didn't sound believable at the time. I think I will patent the idea of "Assembling a large spaceship in orbit to act as a reusable shuttle to transport colonists to mars". Patenting for fun and profit.

Musk vs Bezos (1)

stevez67 (2374822) | about 3 months ago | (#47809983)

The ultimate conspicuous consumption challenge.

The Brits have been doing this (1)

ZorglubZ (3530445) | about 3 months ago | (#47810013)

...for decades with the Sea Harrier; using thrust to land on an aircraft carrier! First use, from a quick glance: Before Apollo 11 (April 1, 1969) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H... [wikipedia.org] .

Re:The Brits have been doing this (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 3 months ago | (#47811497)

But you forgot: '... with a rocket'.

Even if the patent is thrown out . . . (3, Funny)

DickBreath (207180) | about 3 months ago | (#47810061)

Even if the patent is thrown out, another way that SpaceX can be harmed is by states forcing SpaceX to sell through dealers.

Not To Worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47810361)

According to a US National Academy of Sciences Report earlier this year the people who might build a human-capable space vehicle will not be born for another 50 or so years.

Also, the people who will educate and train those people will not be born for another 30 or so years.

Not to forget the culture, economy and institutions needed will not exist for another 20 or so years.

Therefore, the patents are bogus and the lawsuits by the respected parties can be halted as being frivolous and a wast of the courts effort and time.

Ha ha

ToTheBatCave (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47810557)

Uhoh, seems like one of the stages a dying company...

Interesting problem with water landing -- wind (2)

Thagg (9904) | about 3 months ago | (#47810635)

A big challenge for water landing will be wind during the descent of the rocket. If the wind is blowing 100 miles an hour for a minute as the rocket is falling, then it's going to be dragged a mile from the ballistic landing point. (When things move quickly through the air, the lift generated by wind is extremely high; bullets move with the wind.) I don't believe that the booster will have the capacity to fly horizontally too far, and it won't be firing at all for the bulk of the descent.

If the wind could be predicted accurately, it would be easy enough to steer the rocket to the right place -- or move the landing platform to the right place.

If you're landing back at the launch pad; there will have been a rocket that could have sampled the wind speed just a few minutes previously, so you could have very precise wind speed vs. altitude data.

Re:Interesting problem with water landing -- wind (1)

robot256 (1635039) | about 3 months ago | (#47810839)

The latest models of the F9R boosters have retractable steering fins in addition to thrusters and engine gimbals for guidance control, and the ability to hover in place and translate to a precise landing spot. I'm sure they will have everything worked out by the time they try to actually land on a sea platform.

Re:Interesting problem with water landing -- wind (1)

Thagg (9904) | about 3 months ago | (#47811143)

I had forgotten about the gridded fins...you're right, that should provide substantial cross-range capability.

Re:Interesting problem with water landing -- wind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47811821)

F9R can't hover; it's minimum thrust is higher than its weight. This is why they have to perform a "hover-slam" landing, where they attempt to zero out the velocity at the same moment that it touches down.

Re:Interesting problem with water landing -- wind (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 3 months ago | (#47812113)

there will have been a rocket that could have sampled the wind speed just a few minutes previously

If only there were a way to put cameras in orbit, so as to look down upon the planet and spot those turbulent areas with high winds...

Re:Interesting problem with water landing -- wind (1)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | about 3 months ago | (#47812977)

Changing your landing point is very easy - you just slightly change the attitude of the rocket during its retro burn, changing the horizontal component of the acceleration. Changing your landing point to where you want it to be is harder, but the SpaceX people seem to be making good progress on this. (Except that they just blew up their test vehicle...)

Darmok (1)

cstacy (534252) | about 3 months ago | (#47811175)

Bezos "on a computer" http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacg... [uspto.gov]

Bezos on the ocean [http://mashable.com/2013/03/20/jeff-bezos-nasa-apollo-11-engines/]

Elon on the ocean http://www.ibtimes.com/spacex-... [ibtimes.com]

The beast of Tenagra http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1... [wikipedia.org]

Elon, his sales (sic) unfurled http://www.teslamotors.com/blo... [teslamotors.com]

shi7? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47811527)

Of tVhe GNAA I

Could Reluctant Astronaut be cited as prior art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47811713)

In Don Knox's movie "The Reluctant Astronaut", he landed his capsule on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
I would love to see them actually use this movie as proof of prior art.

Oh...fuck...you...Bezos. (3, Insightful)

Rick in China (2934527) | about 3 months ago | (#47814411)

If human expansion into space is thwarted by broad patents, I have nothing more than a big fuck you on behalf of humanity for those who sit on given patents.

Why oh why isn't the patent system getting a massive overhaul: the world has changed ffs.

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