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Satellite Abandoned Due To Orbital Patent

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the patently-ridiculous dept.

Space 366

EreIamJH brings news about a commercial geostationary satellite that was launched last month. Due to a launch failure, the satellite did not reach the orbit required to perform its function. The satellite's owner, SES Americom, looked for a way to salvage the satellite, but ran into an unexpected hurdle; a Boeing patent on the lunar flyby process that would be used to correct the satellite's orbit. If another company doesn't purchase the satellite, it is likely to become another piece of space junk. The European Space Agency has posted a gallery of the maps they have put together for man-made debris in orbit around the earth.

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They can patent that? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034022)

Damn! I'm going to have to start patenting all those 'inventions' by Newton. The first one I'm going to call gravity (TM).

method patent (3, Informative)

twitter (104583) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034150)

You might do better with ski jump instructions or methods of arranging sails for maneuver on the high seas. A maneuver in space is still just a maneuver and a patent on that looks silly when you take it out of the heavens and put it into situations most of us are familiar with.

Re:method patent (4, Informative)

foobsr (693224) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034362)

ski jump instructions

Time to again draw attention to us patent 6368227: "A method of swing on a swing is disclosed, in which a user positioned on a standard swing suspended by two chains from a substantially horizontal tree branch induces side to side motion by pulling alternately on one chain and then the other."

A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy? Einstein


Re:They can patent that? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034182)

That's a bad name and will never be approved. A better one is "a procedure to transport a payload from one point to another by the use of an attractive force that is proportional to the mass of the payload and a reference object and is inversely proportional to the square of the distance of separation between the respective centers of mass". This one will be approved in a heartbeat and you can immediately use it to sue the airlines. See if you can get an injunction to prevent airplanes in flight from violating your patent. And if they crash you can sue the estates of the passengers!

Re:They can patent that? (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034198)

Great ! Start by finding a new maneuvre.

That's a patent btw. A new maneuvre. You get paid for publicizing all about it, that's the idea of patents.

Re:They can patent that? (5, Insightful)

pieterh (196118) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034442)

No, this is a myth. New ideas get shared because they are very hard to keep secret. Patents do not promote disclosure of ideas that can be kept secret, they protect ideas that will inevitably be shared or reinvented in any case.

And since patented ideas cannot be reused or expanded on, patents reduce the sharing and reuse of knowledge, they do not promote it. Overall, patents are very harmful for technological progress. This is why, e.g. oil companies collect patents on solar power, and telecoms firms collect patents on VoIP.

The real purpose of patents is to make money for patent holders, patent experts, and patent lawyers. Anyone who says differently is lying or ignorant. Period.

Re:They can patent that? (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034264)

I'm going to have to start patenting all those 'inventions' by Newton
Just wait until Major League Baseball hears about my new patent "Method and Procedure for Throwing a Baseball so its Trajectory 'Curves' upon reaching Home Plate".

Patent idea: shitting one's pants at work. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034452)

Let me tell you about my new patent idea. I own a small business, with six employees. We do Flash games, web development, and other custom software projects. On Friday I wasn't feeling so well. A bit of the flu, I suppose. Regardless of my health, our work must go on. So there the entire company was, sitting in our 10'x10' meeting room with two representatives from one of our larger clients. In short, I shit my pants. It wasn't a solid shit, either. It was diarrhea that ended up dripping down my legs onto my shoes, and then onto the carpet. And in a meeting room as small as ours, packed with nine people in it, it isn't an enjoyable experience. Needless to say, the reps from our client were not impressed. And tomorrow I get to deal with the repercussions of the whole ordeal. Since I clean our office (we can't afford a cleaning firm), I'll probably get to clean up the now-dried stool that has no doubt been sitting there all weekend. This is an idea I WILL NOT patent.

Re:They can patent that? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034458)

You realise that this was a specific application of gravity in a non obvious way, for a specific purpose, as opposed to a patent of gravity. There is a difference.

I don't think it's particularly obvious how you could use gravity of a body a quarter of a million miles away to get to a geostationary position.

Hmm, but you miss what's special about THIS patent (1)

Tanman (90298) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034504)

They use gravity to make the satellite go . . . UP! HOLY SHIZAM!

What a ridiculous waste (5, Insightful)

seifried (12921) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034028)

What a ridiculous waste of time, money and energy. This is sickening.

Jurisdiction? (5, Interesting)

countach (534280) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034158)

Even if the patent is "valid", what jurisdiction would it have in space?

Re:Jurisdiction? (1)

darkob (634931) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034312)

While the satellite is indeed in space, the company that created it, that owns it and operates it is on Earth. It is true, however, that producing satellite itself to the judge would be next to impossible. Only blueprints are available, plans of operations, and other documentation as well.

Re:Jurisdiction? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034314)

Even if the patent is "valid", what jurisdiction would it have in space?
None, I'm sure. So all SES Americom would have to do is relocate themselves into geosynchronous orbit, and Bob's your uncle!

Seriously though, from TFA:

Industry sources have told SpaceDaily that the patent is regarded as legal "trite", as basic physics has been rebranded as a "process", and that the patent wouldn't stand up to any significant level of court scrutiny and was only registered at the time as "the patent office was incompetent when it came to space matters".

So, it's a moot point. We can't really be sure why SES Americom isn't pursuing this. For all we know, they're confident they'd win---but it might screw their chances for a reasonable settlement on their other suit against Boeing.

Or, maybe, the satellite would have crashed into the sea by the time they got a resolution.

Re:Jurisdiction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034616)

A few things:
1. They have nothing to gain in fighting Boeing except invalidating the patent. There is nothing but money to be lost here for them.
2. It probably would just piss off Boeing and result in more trouble for their suit where they may actually win money.
3. They apparently already consider the satellite a loss and so does their insurance company. So I guess they aren't losing too much.

I think the only way anything happens other then this satellite being unceremoniously returned to Earth is if the insurance company, realizing the satellite is not truly a loss (since there are recovery options available), refuses to pay-out the policy.

Re:Jurisdiction? (3, Informative)

Hellcom (1041714) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034316)

Likely jurisdiction would fall under wherever the owner of the satellite is.

Re:Jurisdiction? (4, Informative)

Loke the Dog (1054294) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034338)

It's basically the same as international waters, it depends on what flag you're flying. The owner is american, and that means the satellite is a tiny part of america. Thus, american patents apply to it.

Re:Jurisdiction? (2, Interesting)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034374)

And if they did it, how would Boeing find out, or prove it?

Surly Boeing doesn't have the ability to track someone else's satellite where ever it is, they could sneak it round, do the flyby, and get it in the right orbit when Boeing aren't looking. What are Boeing going to do, sue them for some shit that happened in space that they can't prove?

Tho given the US legal stsyem, that's still not 100% certain. T totaly avoid any attempt to sue them, they could just start a small holding company in some country that Boeing doesn't have a patent, sell the satellite to the holding company, they do the manoeuvre, then buy it back. Then the holding company liquidates itself. Boeing can't do shit.

validity Re:Jurisdiction? (1)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034390)

In space? doubtful.
In the place where any insurance payout will take place. Very valid probably.

If you read the article you see that SES at this point want the insurance payout and does (pretent) not care for anything else.

Re:Jurisdiction? (1)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034488)

Jurisdiction was the first thought that popped into my head

IANALSIIPT(I am not a lawyer specialising in international patent treaties), but it seems to me that they need to source a company prepared to perform the manouvre from a country that does not respect US patents in all their absurtity.

Said company, perhaps owned and operated by a toothless fish monger with excellent business accumen and ability to hire the right people from around the world, and existing for the sole purpose of moving one space vehicle, moves the satellite and retires very happily on US$100pcm. A small donation from the team, perhaps for Hawaiian shirt Fridays, should cover that.

Cheaper than buying a license and just a little bit cheeki^H^H^Haper.

This is the benefit of globalisation. While we in the more "advanced" countries are subject to absolute stupidity imposed by our own arrogance, there is always some old Toothless Jaun willing to do his bit for the benefit of humanity and they are more accessible than ever.

I'm all for it. Jeez, I should charge top dollar for this kind of fix.

Re:Jurisdiction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034582)

Piiiiigs in Spaaaaaaaace!

This is what happens... (5, Insightful)

ulash (1266140) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034032)

...when common sense does not prevail. The company and Boeing need to come to an agreement of sorts in order to avert the turning of the satellite into space debris. We already have enough stuff out there. The fact that there is no explicit "cost" to the company, of leaving something up there is the main reason for the seeming unwillingness for taking action.

Re:This is what happens... (2, Informative)

radaos (540979) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034088)

There does not seem to be any question of this satellite turning into space debris. From the article...

both parties are "eager to splash the satellite within days".

Re:This is what happens... (4, Informative)

njfuzzy (734116) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034118)

It's worth pointing out that Boeing only denied the request to license the patent because SES Americom is suing them over something else. So really this isn't a case of "patents are evil" it is a case of "you reap what you sow".

Also, SES Americom has the option of selling the satellite to someone who might be able to get the license from Boeing. However, they have chosen to "splash" the satellite and collect their insurance money.

Dirty tricks all around by SES Americom, but less so by Boeing.

Re:This is what happens... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034252)

So really this isn't a case of "patents are evil" it is a case of "you reap what you sow".

...why can't it be both?

Re:This is what happens... (3, Insightful)

TorKlingberg (599697) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034356)

How do you know that SES Americom is doing anything wrong by suing Boeing? If that other suit is valid, then Boeing is abusing the patent system to prevent others from suing them.

Re:This is what happens... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034400)

1. Start a new company in an anti patent country "SES niceplacecom" where it would be problematic or unlawful to pursue this type of patent claim

2. Sell satelite to that company and lease back

3. Do what you want

Re:This is what happens... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034430)

Why is splashing the satellite a "dirty trick"? It is good business sense. The satellite is insured for the full value that SES would have gained had it stayed in orbit for it's intended 15 years. The fact is, with the lunar fly by, the satellite would have burned so much fuel that it could have only been kept in orbit for four years, and the insurance company would have had to pay off for the other 11 years. Makes much more sense to me to just splash it, collect the insurance, and get back to work.

The Dirty Trick here is using a patent that wouldn't stand a day in court to force a company to stop trying to get judicial resolution for something.

Re:This is what happens... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034508)

Sorry, a gigantic waste of money and more space junk due to terrible patent law is okay because SES Americom is a bad company? Is that what you're saying?

So if I left my car parked on a hill, unbraked, and it rolled down and crushed someone's house, but that guy is an asshole anyway, does that mean leaving a car on a hill without the break on is okay? (Hell yeah, car analogy)

Re:This is what happens... (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034544)

Perfectly good satellite that can be saved or sold, but being dumped for insurance?
Makes no sense.

why don't they just (-1, Troll)

sentientbrendan (316150) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034050)

license the patent from boeing?

Re:why don't they just (5, Informative)

seifried (12921) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034060)

They are suing Boeing in another matter, Boeing told them they could use the patent if they drop the suit (50 million according to the article). Unlikely Boeing will license them the patent.

Re:why don't they just (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034608)

If the satellite + launch - salvage flyby costs more than 50 million (which is not unrealistic), they might go for it.

Can they really contractually obligate themselves to drop and not refile a lawsuit, though?

Re:why don't they just (1)

ulash (1266140) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034062)

May be Boeing does not want to licence it for a reasonable price? If this is the only way of getting the satellite (and it seems to be the case) and Boeing knows this, then Boeing might be asking for an unreasonable amount. In fact this amount might make it cheaper to build one from scratch and relaunch it.

Re:why don't they just (1)

WetCat (558132) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034066)

At least two reasons, probably
  - It costs a lot to license that patent
  - Boeing just don't want to license this technology

Re:why don't they just (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034304)

It costs a lot to license that patent
How much do you think it costs to build and launch a satellite?

As has been mentioned, Boeing wont license the patent because the two parties are currently involved in a lawsuit over a different matter. This is actually quite smart on Boeings part: SES Americom may potentially have to do this again in the future, and Boeing are under no obligation to give them a license no matter what the eventual outcome of the lawsuit is. This is the business version of "Do you feel lucky, punk?"

Re:why don't they just (4, Informative)

Detritus (11846) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034082)

RTFA. There is an unrelated legal dispute between the two companies and Boeing wanted to tie the licensing of the patent to a settlement of that dispute.

Re:why don't they just (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034084)

It sets a bad precedent. Pretty soon people will need to pay a licensing fee to ride their bikes due to the patent on a safety device based on the use of a counter motion force derived from two surfaces in contact. Basic physics shouldn't be patentable.

Re:why don't they just (1)

lorenzo.boccaccia (1263310) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034126)

Well, it's almost the same pointless point, who defines basic? Diesel engine are built using basic physics. And the diesel engine it's not only the physical application, is a patent to that particular thermodynamic cycle.

Re:why don't they just (2, Interesting)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034408)

But you're not patenting "a method for the thermal expansion of a gas" - you're patenting a specific arrangement of parts that allow you extract work from such an event. (And there are lots of different methods that can be used)

An orbit calculation is just (fairly) basic math involving position, velocity and time. Centuries-old math. Basically they patented a specific set of input values to the equations. I call bullshit.

Re:why don't they just (2, Insightful)

mcvos (645701) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034354)

license the patent from boeing?
Because invoking their insurance is cheaper than dropping the lawsuit. How's that for fucked up system?

Abandon patents (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034054)

Can't we just abandon the whole patent system?

Re:Abandon patents (1)

Grimbleton (1034446) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034518)

What do you want to do, launch them into a geosynchronous orbit?

Teh rael story (1, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034068)

I know we all want to jump on the patent holder here, but here are the two salient parts of the article.

Primarily this is because SES is currently suing Boeing for an unrelated New Skies matter in the order of $50 million dollars - and Boeing told SES that the patent was only available if SES Americom dropped the lawsuit.

So SES is trying to get 50 million dollars from Boeing, and Boeing is using their patent as leverage to drop the lawsuit.

I wonder what the lawsuit is about.

and two:

SES has decided not to pursue any legal options against Boeing and wants to collect their insurance policy payout. However, their insurance company was not being fully briefed on the options and at this time is planning to pay the policy out.

SES is looking forward to a big payout in the case the satellite returns from orbit. They stand to lose nothing either way. However, the insurance company may step in and declare the policy void if it turns out SES can save the satellite. Interesting conundrum.

SES sounds like a delightful company...

0|-| 1e|-| |\|03z, the monies. (1)

Seakip18 (1106315) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034106)

Blech. The whole thing is making me sick. Legal extortion from ones who are extorting? Sometimes I wish the Mob could step in. They seem to be the real pros when it comes to the stuff. Real quick and to the point.

Then we wouldn't have patents on fly by procedures or other silly things, well a lot more cement blocks. Is that such a bad thing.

Back to reality, what did SES think Boeing was going to do? Just ignore existing litigation?

Typical. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034080)

This is what happens when we abandon reasoning in favor of rules.

Satellite to Earth: (4, Funny)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034092)

Send more lawyers !

Re:Satellite to Earth: (1)

thedarknite (1031380) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034216)

maybe they can catch it

Why doesn't Boeing make it a service (1, Interesting)

Zantetsuken (935350) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034100)

With so much crap like this, why doesn't Boeing make such rescue techniques cost effective and safe enough to do regularly and then offer it as a service = Your satellite dies, we rescue it for a decent fee.

While launching a satellite might cost less than the rescue mission, I would think that figuring building another of the doomed satellite into the cost of launching another would make a rescue mission more attractive...

BTW: don't take it too much to heart, I'm only an armchair astronaut...

Jurisdiction? (5, Interesting)

Kooshman (248753) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034114)

Does anybody know how this patent even has jurisdiction? I understood space to be a legal no-man's land, so any action taken there can't fall under the laws of any nation. Perhaps they could track it back to "sending the signals from earth", at which point you could do the same thing from international waters or an apathetic country.

Re:Jurisdiction? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034140)

Totally. Set up a shell company abroad, sell the satellite for 1 dollar to it, that company can fix the problem outside of the ridiculous patent, then sell the satellite back to SES.

How much did the satellite cost to build and launch? Presumably nowhere near $50m, and the sunk design cost can be reused.

Someone should tell the insurance company that the satellite is savable.

Re:Jurisdiction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034306)

You presume incorrectly. 50 million is well in the range of the cost of launching a satellite (ignoring the cost of the satellite itself).

Re:Jurisdiction? (1)

thermian (1267986) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034344)

Yes it is applicable, even if in space, since it's earth controlled, built on earth, and orbiting Earth. If it were in another solar system, it might be different, although I suspect not.

It's much the same thing as an American warship still belonging to America once in international waters, and still being subject to US law.

Re:Jurisdiction? (2, Insightful)

kirthn (64001) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034428) start, there is a difference of belonging to the US governement (as in warshps?) and commercial fleet put the focus on the satellite here, instead of the "controllable" exterior gravity ;)

Re:Jurisdiction? (2, Informative)

ringmaster_j (760218) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034418)

I understood space to be a legal no-man's land

Kind of, but not really. The laws of space are so unclear that a lot of people assume that you can do anything you want there, and no one can stop you because it simply isn't Earth. Alas, this isn't the case. SES Americom is an American and, indeed, Earth-based company, and as such is bound by both American and international law, including those regarding patents.

If I were Boeing's lawyers, I'd argue it this way: Boeing has the patent in America. SES (presumably) operates its satellites from America. All the work being done in order to use the patent is being done in America (i.e. reading the procedure, making the calculations, sending directions to the satellite). Ergo, the patent is being used in America, even if the end result of the patent (the 'lunar flyby process') is in space.

What one has to remember is that space is actually pretty tightly bound by national laws. Because no one can say who it belongs to, the Americans just treat it like it's part of America, and the Russians like it's part of Russia. Out of convenience, American companies operating in space are subject to American law, and those of their home states. This is the de facto position, of course, and de jure there really are no laws. Your activities in space are, for legal purposes, domestic activities because you rarely actually act in space; you send orders to objects that tell them to take actions. Even if you were to somehow act illegally in space, if you returned to America you'd be subject to American law, under federal jurisdiction.

patent's are only national (3, Interesting)

kirthn (64001) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034128)

So in the case that the patent holds in the USA... why not then involving ESA (european Spece Agency) to solve this or other non-american company....besieds the question if patents are applicable outside earth for that matter ;)..wha's next? suing the martians for a patent??

Re:patent's are only national (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034160)

The advantage of this would be that, somewhere in the universe, there's likely to be prior art for just about any invention that's even remotely useful, so bye, bye, patents.

Re:patent's are only national (1)

njfuzzy (734116) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034384)

There are treaties that govern mutual patent respect between different nations.

Re:patent's are only national (1)

kirthn (64001) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034406)

IANAL, but they don't cover all fields...for example US software patents don't hold in Europe or India (space agency too there) for example

Not yours. Go home and cry about it. (4, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034170)

a Boeing patent on the lunar flyby process that would be used to correct the satellite's orbit.

So this amounts to a patent on moving in a given direction? April first passed by almost two weeks ago. C'mon, guys, bad joke?

Unbelievable. We don't need patent reform, we need an angry mob to storm the USPTO and burn the place to dust, then sift through the dust and re-burn anything left, then haul the entire mess to a live volcano. You just can't have a monopoly on basic physics, Boeing, whether or not the rules allow it. Seriously, grow the fuck up and go back to competing with Airbus on technical merits rather than endless pissing contests with the WTO/WIPO.

Please read whole story before writing summary (2, Informative)

jmdc (1152611) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034180)

I know its a pretty reasonable assumption that nobody will read the summary or the article, but come on... The summary says it's likely to become another piece of space junk. The entire last paragraph of the article concerns plans to deorbit the satellite, and claims that everyone involved is "eager to splash the satellite within days".

Re:Please read whole story before writing summary (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034208)

splash the satellite

That's a euphemism for having sex with a pregnant woman. Well, it is now.

Re:Please read whole story before writing summary (4, Funny)

Digestromath (1190577) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034358)

You've got it all wrong!

'Splashing the satellite' is having wild and poorly aimed sex with a woman, while her uglier and less popular sister is in an uncomfortably close orbit.

Re:Please read whole story before writing summary (1)

dstates (629350) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034422)

Also not mentioned is the fact that SES is already suing Boeing which seems to have something to do with Boeing's reluctance to let them use their own invention. I know you want to grab attention with the post, but you have to convey the whole story.

Patents valid in space? (1)

Timo_UK (762705) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034200)

Where was the patent registered? In the US? So what? The technique will be applied outside the US, in space!

Re:Patents valid in space? (1)

njfuzzy (734116) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034392)

Good luck sending the satellite commands from somewhere other than Earth, big boy.

Would it be too late... (1)

Ginger_Chris (1068390) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034204) patent gravity?

Has anyone pattented the himlick manuver? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034214)

Because someone's missing out on a TRUCKLOAD of cash right there.

Re:Has anyone pattented the himlick manuver? (1)

kirthn (64001) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034280)

Heimlich too ;)

Re:Has anyone pattented the himlick manuver? (1)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034398)

No, but I have just patented the lickhim manoeuvre, I'm expecting to make millions off couples during foreplay.

Lunar flyby to fix geostationary orbit problem? (2, Interesting)

khayman80 (824400) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034220)

Patent issues aside, I'm interested in the maneuver they want to perform. As far as I can tell, the satellite is slightly below geostationary orbit (36,000 km up, if memory serves) and they want to use a "lunar flyby" maneuver to get the satellite up to the Clarke orbit.


The moon is about 400,000 km away. If they can perform a flyby, doesn't that mean they've got enough remaining delta-V to slightly increase the radius of their current orbit? Or is it a problem with the orientation of the plane of the orbit?

Re:Lunar flyby to fix geostationary orbit problem? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034242)

Re:Lunar flyby to fix geostationary orbit problem? (0)

khayman80 (824400) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034396)

Thanks for the link. Looks like they placed the satellite into an orbit with a resonance with the moon's orbit. This would help to lift the satellite and it would probably change its orbital inclination (the angle that Earth's rotational axis makes with the orbital plane's "surface normal").

Re:Lunar flyby to fix geostationary orbit problem? (2, Informative)

njfuzzy (734116) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034394)

Getting into a specific orbit isn't just a matter of reaching a certain altitude. It's a matter of reaching it with the right vector-- you have to be going the right speed or its not an orbit, it's called "falling".

Obligatory..... (1)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034248)


The patent sounds like an excuse (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034250)

According to the article the patent has no hope of standing up in court anyway so why not just use the flyby to rescue the satellite? Wouldn't surprise me if SES just want the insurance money as its a lot easier than messing around trying to re-orbit this thing but Boeings "patent" provides a convenient excuse.

Ok we get it patents bad. (1, Interesting)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034256)

Why does slashdot keep running these stories?

It reminds me of those insipid company newsletter I occasionally get emailed which are inept propaganda.

"We scored a design win in France"

Translation: The CEO spent a couple of weeks there eating good food and bumped into one of his school mates in a restaurant and pretended to do some work. Funny how they don't mention he picked a legal fight with another megacorp that caused the project I was working on with them to get cancelled. And it's not we you brainwashed drone.

"Competitor technology not picked in Nigeria"

Well great. I guess we paid a bigger bribe than them. If you subtract the bribe how much did we actually make.

"Project moneyburner a success"

Yeah, because we all worked unpaid overtime and the only customer was internal.

Patent Number..... (1)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034268)

Does anybody have the number of the patent that Boeing is referring to?

Re:Patent Number..... (2, Interesting)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034412)

It could be 6,116,545 with abstract:
"A method is provided for using a lunar flyby maneuver to transfer a satellite from a quasi-geosynchronous transfer orbit having a high inclination to a final geosynchronous orbit having a low inclination. The invention may be used to take the inclination of a final geosynchronous orbit of a satellite to zero, resulting in a geostationary orbit, provided that the satellite is launched in March or September."
Alternatively, it might be 6,149,103 which does not have the March/September dependency.

Both of these patents were originally assigned to Hughes. Boeing and GM own nearly all of what was Hughes, and Boeing got the space and satellite parts (including bits via Raytheon as an intermediate owner).

Re:Patent Number..... (1)

Anonymous EPA (1127109) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034456)

Could be US6149103

The main claim (the bit that really matters) reads:

1. A method for transferring a satellite from an initial orbit about the earth, the initial orbit having a first inclination, to a final geosynchronous orbit about the earth, the final geosynchronous orbit having a second inclination significantly less than the first inclination, by using multiple lunar gravity-assist flyby maneuvers, the method comprising the steps of: placing the satellite into the initial orbit about the earth, the initial orbit having an apogee significantly lower than lunar radius; placing the satellite into a first translunar orbit, the first translunar orbit having an apogee near lunar radius; placing the satellite into a first leading edge lunar flyby maneuver near apogee of the first translunar orbit, whereby the inclination of the orbit of the satellite with respect to the earth is initially significantly reduced; placing the satellite into an earth-return orbit, the earth-return orbit having a perigee near geostationary radius; placing the satellite into at least a second translunar orbit; placing the satellite into at least a second lunar flyby maneuver, whereby the inclination of the orbit of the satellite with respect to the earth is additionally significantly reduced; and placing the satellite into the final geosynchronous orbit about the earth.


What's next? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034276)

Patenting dance-steps? Fucking ridiculous.

Safely going to the moon... (1)

GNUPublicLicense (1242094) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034296)

China and US said they will go again to the moon... funny... because nowadays or in near futur it will be far more dangerous than in the 60s when you look at the amount of space junk. I'm sure some pieces have a quite high energy and even a super hull won't protect the poor men going to the moon.

I wonder if the satellite is faulty... (5, Interesting)

Keramos (1263560) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034318)

From the article:

a) Industry sources say the patent is basically worthless
b) Americom wants to collect it's insurance
c) Third party goes to insurer, says "We'll buy the satellite and recover it ourselves"
d) Insurer says "No one told us you could recover satellites" so we haven't taken possession of the satellite (if we did, we'd have to worry about getting rid of it, you see). BTW, good risk evaluation & mitigation, guys. I've got a sandcastle I'd like to insure for $50M vs. water damage. Interested?
e) Third party goes to Americom, says "We'll buy the satellite and recover it ourselves"
f) Americom ignores them, meanwhile tries real hard to de-orbit the satellite really quick.

Now, if this were a movie/book, sticking in "QA finds a problem in the satellite before launch, PHB's decide to launch it anyway, have an unfortunate, totally unforeseen and obviously accidental problem, ditch the unit and collect from insurance" somewhere would fit in naturally.

Hollywood is just a French movie's way of reproducing.

Who else didn't know about this? (2)

dotmax (642602) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034348)

I found it interesting that the article said the insurance company did not previously know about the lunar maneuver. Seems kind of incompetent of them, given the kind of money that is involved in this sort of stuff. This leads to a related thought: i wonder how many other satellites have a) used this maneuver or b) been lost for failing to use it. In the meantime, i have patented my "drive around the block because you missed your turn" business strategy, along with my "drive around the block until a parking space opens up" business strategy. You all owe me a MILLION dollars.

Another indication of how broken it all is (1)

oDDmON oUT (231200) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034402)

When a company, a non corporeal legal entity, has more rights than the meat sacks something is seriously out of whack.

Companies now hold more of an interest [] in the inner [] workings [] of your own body than you do, and have laid successful claim [] to elements of orbital mechanics [] .

What's next? Patents being issued on the revitalizing and energizing properties of sunshine? The hydrating effects of water?

What are 1000 patent lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

A good start.

Re:Another indication of how broken it all is (2, Insightful)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034448)

The patent system is broken... we need to fix it

1) Only allow patents on processes not things
2) Only allow patents on processes people can prove they invented (not as now that no-one has yet proved they didn't)
3) Force people to licence patents (i.e. anyone can use it for a fee) and restrict the fee charged so they cannot bury it or skew the market

What are 1000 patent lawyers... (2, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034552)

What are 1000 patent lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

... a waste of perfectly good ocean floor.

WOW... (0, Offtopic)

sxpert (139117) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034404)

this is the biggest WTF ever...

guess there are *WAYYYY* too many lawyers on earth...

corepirate nazis continue to provide fake... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034444)

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is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US (literally) in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending (please do not underestimate the power of intentions) for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events. []

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the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US. any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'. the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

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(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

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How did Boeing get this patent? (1)

cmefford (810011) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034478)

For some reason, I keep thinking that this patent may have come from a result of work done by Boeing for the US Government, and by extension, the people of the united states, paid for by the people of the united state, and by some extension, should therefore be in the public domain.

This is an issue I have with all government contracting. Not with the contracting itself. But rather, the people at large keep getting sold on the concept of 'trickle down' markets that result from all this high powered, high dollar money spent on these gigantic projects.

The US government, by extension 'the people' decide they want something done, like nifty stuff in space. Bids go out, the people pay for the work to be done, the patents resulting should go to the people. If Boeing wants to use these patents, they should pay a license to the people, as should anyone else. If that isn't fair, then the patent should go into the public domain, it was, after all, paid for by the public.

Yeah, certainly this position is arguable. No, I'm not certain this line of thought is correct, it's just an impression. Rebuttals welcomed.

What a load of kak (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034494)


This is total and utter nonsense - just friggin move the satelite and prove for once and for all that patents such as these are dumb crap.

There. Said it.

here's the lunar flyby trajectory (5, Informative)

ChrisCampbell47 (181542) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034514)

I remember when they pulled off that lunar flyby method to save the satellite. It was May 1998 and the AsiaSat 3 launch had been presumed a complete failure, just like AMC-14 this time. The lunar flyby option uses the satellite's own fuel (instead of a booster) to slowly, over weeks, nudge the satellite's apogee further out until it reached the moon's orbit. It flew by the moon as the moon itself was flying around the earth, and the result was that the moon's gravity pulled the satellite in the right direction to get it going towards a useful GEO orbit.

I had that trajectory plot (done with AGI's STK [] , I think) as the desktop image on my computer for 3 years.

Here is what the trajectory looked like [] . The big tradeoff of this method is that you burn most of the satellite's fuel, fuel that was intended to be used over the 15-year life of the sat for stationkeeping. So you end up with a sat in GEO orbit but with much less lifetime. Better than nothing! Well, except for an insurance payout, I guess.

Wow (2, Insightful)

setrops (101212) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034530)

Unbelievable! Wouldn't Douglas Adams's process on falling and missing the ground be considered as prior art?

Target Practise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034564)

Maybe the US military has some more ballistic missiles to get rid of? Smaller target, higher orbit: it seems more of a challenge this time :-)

you know what I'd do? (1)

spandex_panda (1168381) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034590)

I'd make my bloody satellite go into the right orbit, its ridiculous to be able to patent a movement in space for fuck sake its mathematical equations!

Imagine if pythagoras had patented the old x^2=sqrt(y^2 + z^2) we would all be squarely fucked!

So maybe I will patent driving to the shop to buy milk and you can all either pay me for the license to drive to the shop for milk or download all your drives to the shop for milk from pirate bay.... its ridiculous...

I say just perform the maneuver and let the judge tell Boeing its ridiculous.

Want to buy new tag... (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 6 years ago | (#23034606)

Can we get a "fuckingstupid" tag?

Patent Smatent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23034644)

The lawsuit for the patent infringement has to be less money that losing the satelite. So, why not fix the problem and let the lawyers sort it out?
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