Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Patents Transportation Space Technology Science

Amazon's Bezos Seeks Spacecraft Patents 71

Posted by timothy
from the from-here-it-looks-right-side-up dept.
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)."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Amazon's Bezos Seeks Spacecraft Patents

Comments Filter:
  • One click (Score:5, Funny)

    by Neon Aardvark (967388) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @01:42PM (#37389308) Homepage
    The bit that's missing from the summary is that you can trigger the sea landing with one click.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      "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.

      • "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.

    • 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!

  • 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, a

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      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.

      • by Coren22 (1625475)

        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.

    • 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 q

    • by Jonner (189691)

      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

      • 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

    • by psxndc (105904)

      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]

    • by atisss (1661313)
      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 :)
  • Can we please just burn down the whole patent system and start over before it totally screws up another industry?

  • 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
    • by blair1q (305137)

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

      • by rossdee (243626)

        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 tr

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      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.

    • by phayes (202222)

      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-st

      • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
        Yeah, that's a very good point. Since this is intended to be a vertical landing system my worry is groundless.
    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

    • by rmstar (114746)

      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.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        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.

        • 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

          • by 0123456 (636235)

            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.

    • There is probably a DARPA requirement to land on a ship (boat). That is usually how this stuff gets specified.
      • by idontgno (624372)
        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".
    • 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.

    • by Rumata (98457)

      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 cons

  • 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 act

    • 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*].
    • by blair1q (305137)

      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.

    • by Jonner (189691)

      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.

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

    • 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

    • by mattack2 (1165421)

      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?

  • by leftie (667677) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @03:03PM (#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.

    • by cHiphead (17854)

      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.)

      • 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.

  • 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)?

    • by psxndc (105904)

      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 b

  • 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 orie

16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone = 1 Rod Serling

Working...