Boeing Patent Shuts Down AMC-14 Lunar Flyby Salvage Attempt
illustration onlyby Staff Writers
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Apr 10, 2008
Attempts to salvage a wayward GEO comsat have come unstuck in the face of institutional disinterest and an aging patent of questionable validity.
The AMC-14 commercial geostationary satellite was launched in March by a Proton launch vehicle into space just short of its minimum geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).
SES Americom, the world's largest commercial satellite firm, owns the satellite and was to lease capacity on AMC-14 to the Echostar group.
Following the failed launch, SES Americom looked into how they might salvage the satellite in a manner similar to the Asiasat-3 salvage in 1998.
However, SpaceDaily has now learned that a plan to salvage AMC-14 was abandoned a week ago when SES gave up in the face of patent issues relating to the lunar flyby process used to bring wayward GEO birds back to GEO Earth orbit.
Sources have told SpaceDaily that it was possible to bring AMC-14 back via the moon to a stable GEO orbit where the high powered satellite would have been able to operate for at four years and probably longer.
In the face of unrelated legal battles between the current patent owner Boeing and the satellite's owner SES Americom - any efforts to salvage AMC-14 have been cast aside.
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.
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".
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.
Separately, another company has approached the insurers about buying the spacecraft for salvage using the lunar flyby option. Initially, the insurers were surprised as they had no knowledge of this option and suggested that they contact SES Americom directly.
While most satellite insurance policies allow the insurer to take ownership of a satellite when they pay a claim, they rarely do this. The default is instead to leave "ownership" with the operators, who are then legally obliged to safely deorbit the satellite or move the satellite into a GEO parking orbit. At this stage SES Americom is working with a major US space consultancy to rapidly deorbit the satellite - as early as this Friday. SpaceDaily has been told that various attempts by third parties to buy the satellite have been ignored and both parties are "eager to splash the satellite within days".
More HDLITE is on the way and what we have now will get worse. I was hoping with the launch of this sat DISH would up the channel bit rate on this sat.
Still, I wonder if the "another company" that wants to buy this sat from the insurers is DISH?
If I were Echostar, I would buy the satellite from the insurance company at a bargain basement price, pay Boeing any licensing fees for use of the patent, and be done with it. You would own a satellite good for a few years at a decent price, keep your customers happy too - a win win!
But alas, I am not!
Though, makes me wonder If thy already tried, or they might get ready to do just that...
You know what, sence boeing holds a patent on how to do something.. does this mean that I can write instructions on how to start a car and sue everyone who owns a car for patent violations.. In a sence this is what boeing is doing.
I am a D transplant, and I do like it, but healty competion between D and E is a good thing for all of us. i am sorry to see this happen and wish them the best of luck with their future launches. E was also lucky that this was going to be a leased bird.
The retailer chat after AMC-14's problem said "Jim says the satellite problem will NOT disrupt their short term plans for new national HD and HD locals.". OK, everyones been busy trying to figure out what soon to E* means, now we can also try to figure out what short means.
Wasn't AMC-14 to be used mostly for LiL service? If that is the case then LiL service for given areas may be delayed, but National HD channels rollout plans should continue on track (God only knows what Charlie's thinking on this issue is though) I would assume. Someone tell me where I'm going wrong.