12
$\begingroup$

I had encountered a few mentions of orbits being patented (or at least applications filed) but didn't take much notice. Then I did a simple search and was blown away by the sheer volume of activity - mostly USPTO but EPO as well.

Is spacecraft maneuver intellectual property actively traded by entities actually involved in the space industry? Are orbits, or orbital maneuvers ever avoided - with deference to less optimal ones - in order to avoid paying royalties? (...or are royalties ever paid?)

Bonus points: If I patent a bunch of orbits or maneuvers, can I convince (leverage) entities to hire me as a consultant in exchange for not suing them? (humor - mostly)

$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Can you link some examples, to save others the trouble of duplicating your research? $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove May 11 '16 at 4:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Of course IP is traded. That's the point of developing IP. Here's the brutal economics: There are at least ten unbaked ideas for every even half-baked idea, and there are at least ten half-baked ideas for every idea that makes sense. Those unbaked ideas cost tens of thousands dollars (or more) each, and the half-baked ideas cost hundreds of thousands dollars (or more) each. The one percent of ideas that are worthwhile cost even more to develop, and they have to not only pay for themselves, they have to pay for all of those lesser ideas that did not meet the cut. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen May 11 '16 at 7:13
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ google.com/patents/US6116545 for example? $\endgroup$ – Andy May 11 '16 at 7:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @uhoh If we aren't looking at the same thing you're looking at, the conversation can get very confused. This is one of the reasons questions on SX are supposed to show evidence of initial research. It's not hard to put in a link to one example. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove May 11 '16 at 13:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @RussellBorogove you are right - give me a few hours to get to a decent keyboard and internet connection, and I'll add some examples to the question, thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh May 11 '16 at 13:40
2
$\begingroup$

I have never heard of a patented maneuver before. There are maneuver strategies that operators will perform but there are many common ones like a Hohmann Transfer and a pure inclination change. I would suspect that maneuver strategy are just a closely guarded company secret, not patented. I worked with many operators who said directly how they maneuver and their maneuver strategy and another would not provide any details in fear their strategy would be leak somehow. There are also consultants that would help you design your trajectory like Space Exploration Engineering Corporation (SEE) and if they do not have any maneuver strategies, then no one does.

Also, if you were to prove that someone performed your patented maneuver? There is only one Space Situational Awareness system capable of this, it is the Commercial Space Operations Center (ComSpOC). So far there is minimal adoption of this but it will see more interest when the JSPOC implements the same technology as the ComSpOC in the near future.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Check this out for example: Boeing Patent Shuts Down AMC-14 Lunar Flyby Salvage Attempt, There are probably multiple layers behind this story, but let it serve as an existence proof. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 8 '16 at 5:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Andy linked to a lunar flyby patent https://www.google.com/patents/US6116545 which I also used in this question. There are a lot of spacecraft maneuver patents, Process patents, algorithm patents, you can read a little about it in Fly Me to the Moon for example. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 8 '16 at 8:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This invention was not obvious at the time it was invented. When the AsiaSat 3 launch failed, the orbital physicists did not immediately realize that they could use this method to salvage the satellite. I seem to recall that Hughes' CEO called them twice to ask if they could do a better job of salvaging the satellite before they came up with this solution. $\endgroup$ – Jasper Jan 22 '17 at 12:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.