Williams patent trial enters final phase–Carol Hazard Hughes News Quarterly International Edition January-March 1988 Transcribed by Fatih MacPherson

Hughes is on the home stretch of a complex, lengthy legal dispute spanning two decades over a patent relating to space technology.

The company is seeking $1.2 billion in damages from the U.S. government for use of the Williams patent on more than 100 spacecraft.

The patent was filed by Hughes in 1960 in the name of Donald Williams, a Hughes physicist, whose invention was critical to the development and success of the communications satellites.

The trial, which opened in the Los Angeles area to hear testimony from West Coast witnesses, has moved to the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, D.C., where proceedings resumed.

Witnesses who have testified on behalf of Hughes include Chairman of the Board Albert Wheelon who, in an unusual court session, gave his testimony in Space and Communications Group’s High Bay, and retired Chairman Albert E. Puckett, who testified in court.

The government has indicated that it plans to put between 90 and 100 people on the witness stand to refute the company’s claims to compensation under the Williams patent.

Hughes has battled to protect its patent rights almost since the time the invention was first used in 1963 on Syncom, the first synchronous satellite.

Crucial issues involving the scope of the patent were resolved in Hughes’ favor in a September 1983 decision by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit after being tangled in a complicated string of legal actions. Validity of the Williams patent, which also was disputed, was affirmed in the same decision.

During the present phase of the proceedings, the question is not whether patent rights were violated, but how much money will be awarded for the infringements.

The courts will determine the number of spacecraft that have infringed, a royalty rate for the use of the invention, and the amount of money to be awarded as delay compensation.

Hughes’ request for $1.2 billion involves a royalty rate of 15 per cent of the cost of each spacecraft based on a precedent set in 1965 in which INTELSAT, the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization, acting through its U.S. agent, COMSAT, agreed to pay Hughes 15 per cent for using the invention on its commercial spacecraft.

The Williams invention made possible a spacecraft whose attitude could be controlled through “precession,” a type of motion achieved by spin-synchronous pulsing of thrusters.

The brilliant Mr. Williams, who died in 1966 at the age of 34, was selected by the U.S. Chamber Commerce as one of the nation’s outstanding young men of 1965 for his invention.

He had worked with Harold Rosen, now a Hughes vice president, and Tom Hudspeth, a Space and Communications Group chief scientist, to build Syncom, the first satellite to provide communications over a portion of the Earth.

During the development stage, when funding of his work on the satellite was jeopardized, Mr. Williams volunteered his life savings to keep the program alive.

Chairman Emeritus L.A. “Pat” Hyland, who then was vice president and general manager remembered the day: “When he put that check down on my desk, I became convinced that this type of dedication just had to be supported.”

Despite leading to systematic coverage of the globe, Syncom was initially met with skepticism and its makers were hard pressed to find a customer. Someone reportedly remarked after a presentation made at the 1961 Paris Air Show that the Eiffel Tower was “as high as it (Syncom) would ever get.”

General mistrust involved doubts about such revolutionary technology as well as concerns about the quality of voice communications from a satellite in as high an orbit as 22,300 miles above Earth, where the satellite would appear stationary above a specific area of the globe.

Hughes persisted, however, and NASA was eventually persuaded to buy and launch Syncom.

The first Syncom, launched in February 1963, exploded before reaching its final orbit. Five months later, however, Syncom II was launched into synchronous orbit, where it heralded a new era in instant communications.

NASA, which had funded the project, requested in 1966 that the U.S. Patent Office issue the Williams patent to NASA instead of Hughes.

NASA claimed that the Williams invention was first reduced to practice during the performance of the NASA Syncom contract, thereby making NASA the owner of the patent.

Hughes countered that Mr. Williams had built a working model prior to the NASA contract and that the invention was, thereby, first reduced to practice in a Hughes laboratory using company funds.

The U.S. Patent Office Board of Patent Interferences sided with NASA, but the adverse 1969 ruling was appealed and, in 1972, the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals agreed with and gave title to Hughes.

The Williams patent was issued to Hughes Sept. 11, 1973. The matter, however, was far from being resolved.

Government satellites built by other companies were using the Williams invention without compensation to Hughes. Hughes consequently sued the government for infringement Nov. 13, 1973.

The practice of suing the government for patent infringement is not uncommon, said Hughes patent attorney Steve Mitchell. As a result of pre-award negotiations with bidders, the government often assumes infringement liability to shield contractors from legal actions by patent owners, he explained.

The Hughes versus the U.S. government case dragged on, as often happens with patent infringement lawsuits and over the years, became snagged in a web of legal actions.

These included a ruling in 1979 that the Williams patent was invalid, which was reversed a year later by the Court of Claims.

In another development in 1982, the patent was declared valid, but limited in that it did not apply to new technology that enabled satellite control commands to be stored in an onboard computer and later executed automatically instead of in real time, as was the case with Syncom. Hughes appealed and the ruling was overturned in 1983.

During the 15 years that the case has been pending, numerous government-procured spacecraft have infringed the patent.

In the meantime, Hughes sued Ford Aerospace and Communications Corporation for using the Williams patent on the commercial Intelsat V series of spacecraft. This case was dismissed last year after Ford agreed to settle out of court. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The trial in process is the final leg of a 21-year legal dispute in which Hughes has not wavered from its original position stated Feb. 3, 1967, when the company began its battle against NASA in the U.S. Patent Office to establish ownership of the Williams invention and the right to be compensated for its use.




Sunraycer—The GM Solar-Powered Car

Solar Challenge race tests new technology–Carol Hazard

Hughes News Special Edition for Australia, September 1987

Transcribed by Faith MacPherson


A Hughes team is developing the power system for a solar-powered car that General Motors has entered in the 1987 Solar Challenge race in Australia.

The race, which is scheduled to being Nov. 1, will cover 1950 miles in the outback from Darwin to Adelaide.

GM’s entry is one of 25 vehicles representing nine countries that have been entered. Howard Wilson, Hughes vice president in charge of GM projects, is overall project manager for the company’s participation.

According to Ervin Adler, project manager for Space and Communications Group’s work on the car, the end result may spawn a new age of electric-powered commuter vehicles and demonstrate innovative approaches for using solar power on Earth.

The Group team assigned to the out-of-the-ordinary project is modifying technology that it has used for decades to power spacecraft. It will apply its expertise in solar cells, solar panels, and batteries to build an efficient power source for the vehicle.

Based on a mandated daily schedule from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and depending upon weather conditions, the race is expected to last no longer than seven days. Any vehicle lagging behind the lead by two full day will be disqualified.

Without disclosing details, Mr. Adler said that GM’s entry is “larger than a compact car, ultra-lightweight, and highly streamlined.”

According to the rules, the vehicle cannot be taller or wider than 6 ½ feet and no longer than 19 ½ feet.

“Anything goes, as long as it complies with the rules,” said Mr. Adler.

The project must be completed by October to allow for transportation to Australia.

“With so little time left, we’ll have to push to get it done,” said Mr. Adler. “It’s a challenge, but it’s also fun.”

GM is providing electric drive and suspension systems, aerodynamic testing, and design consultation for the vehicle through several organizations.

Other team members, Group Lotus PLC of London and Holden’s Motor Company of Australia, both GM international subsidiaries, are developing race strategy and logistics support.

AeroVironment, Inc., of Monrovia, Calif., has been retained by GM to contribute its expertise in lightweight structures and materials, low-speed aerodynamics, and low-powered aircraft.

AeroVironment designed and built the Gossamer Condor, the first maneuverable human-powered aircraft, and the Solar Challenger, a solar powered aircraft that set records in its crossing of the English Channel.SunraycerPIC

Hughes News Quarterly International July-September, 1987


Sunraycer Description and Race Results—Jack Fisher

The Challenge

Early in 1987 GM’s Australian Division contacted GM headquarters in Detroit to inquire about the corporation’s interest in participating in the Pentax World Solar Challenge to be held in Australia later that year. Roger Smith, GM CEO at the that time, was interested and a team was formed, consisting of GM, Hughes Aircraft, and AeroVironment, to design a solar-powered car that came to be called the Sunraycer. Time was of the essence as only about 10 months remained to design, build and test the car.

The race was to begin on November 1 and was to cover a distance of about 1900 miles on the Stuart Highway between Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory and Adelaide in South Australia. This two-lane highway is only partially paved. The cars are to be solar powered with the solar panel area limited to 8 m 2(projected area). Any size battery can be used but must be charged only by the solar panel. Racing will take place daily between 8 am and 5 pm with maintenance and battery charging allowed from 6am to 8 am and 5 pm to 7 pm. Six drivers plus an unlimited support team are allowed for each car with the drivers ballasted to 85 kg. A major concern on the Stuart Highway was the presence of large tractor-trailers, known locally as road trains. Each participating car had to undergo a stability test passing a tractor-trailer driving in the opposite direction at 100 km/hr.


Car Design

The design approach adopted was to minimize weight, aerodynamic drag and rolling friction. This necessitated a solar panel that was contoured to the shape of the car rather than a flat panel that could be raised to face the sun while racing. The contoured panel, however would be raised to face the sun during the two daily battery charging opportunities. The car body, only 3.3 feet in height, was a lightweight honeycomb composite over an aluminum tube frame that in wind tunnel tests had a drag coefficient of only 0.125 based on the frontal area.

Two cars were built—a development model with silicon solar cells that provided an output of 1000 watts and the racing model with a combination of silicon (20%) and gallium-arsenide (80%) cells that provided 1400 watts. The silver zinc battery had a capacity of 3-kilowatt hours. The solar panels and battery were both designed and built by Hughes SCG.

The controls consisted of a throttle, brakes and a two-mode cruise control operating at a fixed speed or fixed battery current. An option for regenerative braking returning energy to the battery was also provided. A lightweight dc brushless 2 horsepower electric motor operating at 92% efficiency provided torque to a chain drive on the left rear wheel. The car weight (without driver) was only 385 pounds. GM did not disclose the cost for the Sunraycer development, but it is estimated to be in the order of $2 million.


Software was developed at SCG to simulate racing conditions and predict vehicle performance. This software, developed on a Macintosh personal computer, by Joe Gurley and Mike Cassidy was also used during the race for tactical support. An SCG systems engineer, probably Mike Cassidy, traveled with the support team in Australia to provide tactical support for race operations using this software.

The software provided an electrical system simulation that took into account ambient conditions including rolling friction, aerodynamic drag, sun angle, wind, and grade to provide an optimal speed control law. This allowed the determination taking into account the diurnal variation of the solar aspect angle a minimum and maximum operating speed. In the early morning and late afternoon the minimum speed could be maintained using the battery while during midday holding the speed to the maximum allowed battery charging.


A ¼-scale model was tested in Caltech’s GALCIT wind tunnel and the full-scale development model was tested in a GM wind tunnel. The development model was operated for 3000 miles at GM’s Mesa Proving Ground in Arizona. As a result of this testing the suspension system was redesigned. The race vehicle was completed only a few days before shipment to Australia and underwent only limited testing.

Race Results

The Sunraycer won the pole position for the start of the race with a speed of 33 mph and completed the race in 44 hr 54 min at an average speed of 42.8 mph almost 24 hr ahead of second place car. The only problems encountered during the race were three flat tires. In June 1988 at the GM proving ground in Arizona the Sunraycer set a new world speed record of 48.7 mph for a solar powered land vehicle. GM donated the car to the Smithsonian where it is on permanent display at the Museum of American History.



New nickel-hydrogen battery to give spacecraft longer life Hughes News Quarterly International January-March 1986 Transcribed by Faith MacPherson

More than a decade of research and development in a battery that is expected to add years of life to spacecraft is ready for harvest.

New lines of Space and Communications Group satellites will be powered by nickel hydrogen (Ni-H₂) batteries, a hybrid that may outlive and outperform its predecessors.

By combining the nickel electrode from the commonly used nickel-cadmium batteries (Ni-Cd) with the hydrogen electrode from hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells, Hughes scientists have developed a battery that in its eighth year of real-time testing, has shown no signs of significant degradation.

“Compared with the 10-year life span of nickel cadmiums, we expect to get 15, possibly 20 years or more out of nickel hydrogens,” said senior scientist Howard Rogers of Space and Communications Group’s Power Sources department.

Dr. Rogers was hired by Hughes in 1973 to work on the development of Ni-H₂ batteries, an electrochemical system that was first suggested in 1961 by Frank Ludwig, who is now a senior scientist at Electro-Optical and Data Systems Group. Much of the development work has been sponsored by the Air Force.

The ongoing effort has produced a battery that will serve the high-power needs of the large, new spacecraft generation, such as the Intelsat VI series and the HS 393 family.

Batteries breathe life into satellites, storing energy that is collected in spacecraft solar cell arrays and providing full power during eclipses of the sun when solar-generated electricity is temporarily unavailable.

Although both Ni-H₂ and Ni-Cd batteries can power a spacecraft, the Ni-H₂ unit weighs less, a critical factor in determining space-bound payloads.

The beauty of the Ni-H₂ battery, said Dr. Rogers, is that it has the rechargeable quality of Ni-Cd batteries, but few of its disadvantages, such as high susceptibility to damage from electrical and thermal environments.

“Nickel-hydrogen batteries require less care and feeding than nickel cadmium, and are less likely to be damaged by unintentional abuse,” said Dr. Rogers.

Contained in pressurized containers, Ni- H₂ batteries do not bulge from pressure that builds up if one of the cells is completely discharged, a possible occurrence in Ni-Cd batteries. They also do not run the risk of severe damage from over-charging.

Another advantage is that, unlike Ni-Cd batteries, the amount of electricity stored in Ni-H₂ batteries can be monitored. “With a nickel cadmium, you can estimate the state of charge if you know how much electricity the battery should hold and its rate of discharge. But there’s no way to know for sure,” said Dr. Rogers.

The change in a Ni- H₂ battery can be assessed precisely by using a gauge that measures hydrogen pressure levels.

“Although a nickel-hydrogen cell can be discharged to 100 per cent of its capacity without adverse effects, the discharge limit has been set at 80 per cent to achieve at least a 10-year life,” said Dr. Rogers.

“The nickel-hydrogen battery, in its life test at the 80 per cent level,” he continued, “has been ‘cycled’ again and again, drained of its energy and recharged repeatedly many thousands of times without any significant decrease in performance.”


The Magellan Mission–Hughes News Quarterly International April-June, 1989

Magellan up; on 15-month trip to Venus—Keith Bass

The Space Shuttle Atlantis roared away from its launch pad and into space Thursday, May 4. Its near-perfect launch, after an aborted launch attempt six days earlier, marked a rebirth of interplanetary exploration for the United States.

This flight of the shuttle had one main purpose: to send off Magellan, a spacecraft carrying a Hughes-built radar that is now on a mission to map the Earth’s sister planet, Venus.

Magellan is the first U. S. interplanetary probe in 11 years and the first to be launched by the shuttle. Its successful launch fulfilled NASA’s hopes for a return of stability to interplanetary projects since the Challenger disaster of 1986.

Soon after launch, space agency officials reported that Magellan’s course is to accurate that only a few normal correction maneuvers will be required during the craft’s 15-month trip to Venus.

Magellan is now cruising at about 6000 mph and will travel 795 million miles to reach Venus in August of 1990.

Once there, Magellan will use its Hughes-built radar during 1852 orbits to send back the most detailed images to date of the Venusian surface—a desolate, alien landscape that is perpetually shrouded by layers of dense, poisonous clouds.

Magellan also will relay to Earth information on the chemical composition of Venus, and observation of the craft from Earth will be used to help elicit information about the planet’s gravity.

After giving Magellan a successful send-off, and before their safe return to Earth, the Atlantis crew conducted a few experiments to determine if large, perfect crystals of certain semiconductors could be grown is space. The crew also photographed lightning in support of a project that could lead to better weather prediction, and the shuttles’s thrusters were fired over Hawaii to help the Air Force test an optical tracking system for rockets.

Scientists believe that observations of Venus—and of other planets—enable them to make better conclusions about the origins of Earth and firmer predictions about where planet Earth is headed.

Radar technique key to mission—Bill Andrews

Mapping a planet millions of miles away is no easy task.

It’s hard enough designing and building a complex spacecraft such as Magellan that can leave the Earth, survive a trip across the solar system, and find its way to another celestial rock. In this case, the craft must then settle into a proper orbit and operate automatically by commands from Earth.

Getting to the planet and acquiring orbit are actually well within the technical abilities of NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Hughes Space and Communications Group.

Sometimes the subtle challenges are the toughest to meet. Take radar mapping for example. In order to map the whole planet, the radar signals sent to and received from the planet’s surface by the orbiting spacecraft must be finely tailored.

Radar Systems Group’s Howard Nussbaum, chief scientist in Advance Programs Division and senior member of the RSG team that assisted on the Magellan program, explained the problem of controlling the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) in such a dynamic environment.

“Depending upon the angle of the orbit, which is highly elliptical, the power of the returning signal can vary. When the spacecraft is close to the planet, the radar reception is clearer, so to speak.”

“But if the spacecraft is some distance from Venus, the returning signal is not as strong,” Dr. Nussbaum said. “Therefore, the ‘look’ angle must be adjusted to compensate for the weaker return.”

These altitude variations present a situation somewhat analogous to attempting to take a series of photographs of an object while the camera shifts between close-up and long-distance positions, requiring continuous refocusing.

To compensate for this phenomenon, RSG wrote radar mapping sequence software for the SAR.

The software modifies the mapping sequence instructions that control the signal transmitted by the radar and reception process. The instructions vary according to the predicted orbit of the spacecraft and are used for a three-day period. This ensures a radar return signal that will provide a quality image.

After each three-hour mapping orbit, radar data is transmitted to Earth through the Deep Space Network with stations at Goldstone, Calif., Madrid, Spain, and Canberra, Australia. Upon receipt at JPL, the data is processed to form images. Quality images verify that the mapping sequences devised many days earlier have provided proper planet coverage.

HAC Receives Basic Patent On Spin-Stabilized Satellites—Hughes News September 14, 1973

Invention by Don Williams

The U. S, Patent Office has issued a basic patent to Hughes Aircraft Company titled Velocity Control and Orientation of a Spin-stabilized Body, which covers attitude control of spin-stabilized satellites.

The patent, number 3,758,051, was awarded for an application filed Aug. 21, 1964, derived from an earlier application filed April 18, 1960.

The inventor was the late Don Williams, a Hughes engineer who worked on the early development of synchronous satellites, including Syncom II, the world’s first successful synchronous-orbit satellite, launched July 26, 1963. The same technology has been used on subsequent generations of communications satellites, including the current series of Intelsat IVs, five of which now provide worldwide satellite communications for telephony, color television, teletype, data and facsimile.

The invention achieves attitude control of spin-stabilized satellites by using synchronized gas pulses that apply the necessary reactive force to the satellite in a predetermined amount and direction to alter the spin axis alignment.

Hughes System Makes Giant, Improved Satellites Possible—Hughes News November 3, 1967

AIAA Attendees View “Gyrostat Model in Action

Giant satellites with capabilities never before considered possible are on the near horizon, as demonstrated on a model satellite featuring HAC’s new “gyrostat” stabilization system on operation for the first time.

Anthony J. Iorillo, spacecraft dynamics specialist in Space Systems Division, conducted the demonstration during the annual meeting of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Anaheim Convention Center last week.  He explained how his studies apparently have rendered obsolete a fundamental theory of satellite design.

Like Hatboxes

The theory holds that any spinning satellite would have to be built short and squat and spun—for stabilization—about its major axis.  That is why Mr. Iorillo said, all today’s commercial satellites look like large hatboxes.

Future satellites using the gyrostat concept can be spun about their minor axes and may have some parts spinning while other parts remain stationary with never a wobble in the spacecraft.  This will allow the spacecraft to vary widely in appearance for many varieties of purposes.  It will also assure major performance advantages, among which Mr. Iorillo cited.

• Satellites can be much larger, more powerful, longer lasting, and more  efficient.

• While a portion is spinning for stabilization, important payloads such as antennas, lasers, or telescopes can remain stationary or be moved to point them precisely in any direction.

• Pointing accuracy could be so great that, for example, one antenna could be pointed at New York and another at Los Angeles to provide genuine point-to-point satellite communications for the first time.

• Such satellites could continuously track and relay signals from other satellites or manned space capsules, and carry lasers or telescopes above the earth’s atmosphere, where they would be more effective.

•The new satellites can have elongated configurations and virtually unlimited size.  Since they no longer have to be squat in shape they can use the full volume of a booster shroud for the first time.

The “major axis theorem,” followed by satellite scientists since 1958 until Mr. Iorillo declared himself an unbeliever, stated that any non-rigid free rotating body will end up—as Explorer I did—spinning about the axis of greatest moment of inertia.  In what Mr. Iorillo described as “an oversimplification” such a satellite, after spinning for a while as a top, eventually would start tumbling end over end like a drum major’s baton.

Refutes “Elders”

His studies, started two years ago when he was 27 and completed with his recent delivery of a scientific paper, refute the “elders,” to say the least.  The studies showed that satellites can be designed as multi-spin vehicles and stabilized about their axes of minimum moment of inertia, he reported.  He added that satellites can carry non-rigid payloads in both rotor and despun platforms.

Mr. Iorillo discovered the gyrostat concept during a company-funded analysis of the dynamics of non-rigid elements within nutating dual-spin systems.  He and his associates built a dynamic model 9 feet tall, mounted on a spherical air bearing to provide complete rotational freedom.   They said it verified the concept completely.

How It Works

Mr. Iorillo says “the conclusion is quite simple.”  This in essence is how simple:

“Stability can be assured if the energy dissipation in the rotor (mainly by whip antennas and by fuel sloshing in the tanks) can be compensated for by artificial dissipation introduced on the despun platform.  This is accomplished by an eddy-current nutation damper, a magnet swinging like a pendulum in an induced magnetic field.”

“Thus by making the platform energy dissipation more efficient tha dissipation in the rotor, stability can be preserved.”

Mr. Iorillo received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, both in aeronautics, from California Institute of Technology.

 Salute to Patent Award Winners Hughes News April 3, 1970

Tony Iorillo

Mr. Iorillo’s invention of the gyrostat principle turned Hughes’ early lead in synchronous communications satellites into a commanding position.  The invention allows a large antenna mounted on a spinning satellite to be aimed and stabilized mechanically by means of a nutation damper.  The present generation of HAC communications satellites is based on this breakthrough, and it is likely that the technique will dominate satellite technology for many years to come.  In addition, it has directly generated several hundreds of dollars worth of business and has substantially enhanced HAC’s competitive position in space.

Spin stabilization ‘simple, elegant, brilliant’—Hughes News June 28 1985 transcribed by Faith MacPherson

Telecommunications capacities have changed dramatically from the one-channel circuit carried by Syncom in 1963 to the 33,000-circuit capacity of the new Intelsat VI series.

Yet, no matter how complex or how large Hughes satellite systems have become, the basic spin-stabilized design has remained the same.

Developed by Hughes engineers, the concept for spin stabilization broke a technological barrier, providing continuous communications on a global basis live via synchronous satellite.

“Spin-stabilization is a simple, elegant, brilliant system on which Hughes has built year after year,” said Lynn Grasshoff, associate manager of Space and Communications Group’s Systems Design Laboratory.

“The best solutions are always the simplest.”

Mr. Grasshoff has been working in attitude dynamics and orbital control of spin-stabilized satellites since joining the company in 1961, shortly after the development of Syncom.

“The system is so reliable and easy to implement that nothing has ever come close to it,” he continued. “Every aspect of it has been ideally realized, making Hughes the leader in spin-stabilized satellites for synchronous orbits.”

Thirty-nine of 41 spin-stabilized commercial satellites in synchronous orbit operating today were designed and built at SCG.

Early satellites of the late 1950s had a tendency to tumble uncontrollably, compounding an existing problem of positioning them in particular orientations to Earth.

Two basic methods were subsequently developed to hold spacecraft steady and pointing towards Earth: spin stabilization and three – or multi-axis stabilization.

Three – or multi-axis stabilization requires the use of flywheels and little rocket or gas jets to control the spacecraft through its roll, pitch, and yaw axes.

Twelve to 18 thrusters are required for orbit and attitude control of the three – or multi-axis spacecraft, which, during the first full-scale effort in 1958 to design a synchronous communications satellite, provide too complex to implement.

Meanwhile, work was progressing on an in-house study conducted at Hughes that featured a spinning control system in which all orbit attitude requirements were accomplished by two thrusters, or four for full redundancy.

“Spin-stabilization is the method that nature prefers, even assists,” said Mr. Grassfhoff. He explained that once spinning, the spacecraft has angular momentum like a gyroscope, and like a gyroscope, is reluctant to change its attitude and resists such change.

The orbit and attitude control system for synchronous satellites was developed by the late Don Williams. A patent was filed in his name for the idea in August 1964 with the U.S. Patent Office.

“The Williams patent is still used today for all of our spinners,” said Mr. Grasshoff. With the exception of Surveyor, all Hughes spacecraft are “spinners.”

The Hughes Leadership in the spin-stabilized market was later strengthened by the Iorillo patent, issued in 1969.

Anthony Iorillo, Group vice president and manager of SCG’s Defense Systems Division, showed the industry that gyroscopic dynamics do not restrict the size of despun platforms on which communications electronics are mounted.

Mr. Iorillo discovered that stabilization of a large despun platform was not only possible, but also practical, even with destabilizing elements on the spinning portion.

The Hughes system developed from this concept was called the Gyrostat, a motorized technique for dualspun spacecraft that uses a passive damper to dissipate energy and overcome all destabilizing forces, such as propellant sloshing and structural flexing.

By using the Gyrostat approach, a satellite can be virtually unlimited in platform size.

The concept was confirmed in February 1969 with the launch of Tacsat, a 1600-pound, two-story experimental communications satellite that ushered in the era of large, complex satellite systems.

“Tacsat also introduced a new technique for the damping of nutation, coning motion, by utilizing to advantage the natural dynamic coupling between the despin torque and the nutational motion of the spacecraft,” said Mr. Grasshoff.

“Those two patents, the Williams and the Iorillo, form the basis of spin-stabilized technology and are the reason that Hughes has advanced so far in the field.”






Group’s Propelling Idea to Boost Satellites—The SCG Journal November 1983 transcribed by Faith MacPherson

(Ed. Note: When Challenger launched two SCG satellites this past June, the spacecraft were boosted up from the shuttle’s low-earth orbit by payload assist modules – standardized upper stage rockets which were attached to the satellites’ aft ends. Although these PAMs have worked well in five out of five shuttle satellite deployments, problems and controversy surround the ongoing development of more complex, large upper stages for heavier satellites and planetary spacecraft. In the following viewpoint article, originally published in a longer form in Aviation Week, SCG President Dr. Albert Wheelon offers the Group’s approach to cost-effectively propel payloads into their final orbital tracks.)

Our nation is now transitioning its space programs – both civilian and military – to the space shuttle fleet. It is gradually turning off the supply lines for traditional launch vehicles: Titan, Delta, and Atlas Centaur. However, these traditional launchers have one important advantage over the shuttle: they place spacecraft directly into a high elliptical orbit. Satellites can either remain in this high orbit or, using an apogee kick motor, transfer to the geosynchronous stationary orbit used by all commercial communications satellites. On the other hand, the shuttle carries spacecraft only to low-earth orbit, and a large additional boost must be supplied by other rocket stages to move vehicles into other, higher tracks. NASA recognized this shortcoming early in the shuttle program and encouraged the development of a few standard upper stages. For example, the space agency encouraged the Air Force to undertake the development of the inertial upper stage (IUS). In return for a regulated market franchise, NASA also induced McDonnell Douglas to develop the payload assist module PAM-D, used for our HS 376 satellites, and the PAM-A stage, planned to boost Atlas Centaur-class payloads like Ford’s Intelsat V.Boost1

PAM-D has been a reasonable success; 22 have been ordered to lift satellites from shuttle low-earth orbit into transfer orbit, and five have already flown successfully.

PAM-A is another story. Eight have been built and there are no users in sight. The IUS has been an extraordinarily costly development, and its rising launch price is rapidly discouraging its use both by commercial and military customers.

The Air Force and NASA are now embarked on the development of a new standard upper stage – the Centaur – which shows every promise of following the path of IUS.

This raises two important questions. The first is, what is wrong with these generic standard rocket upper stages? The second is, is there an alternative? Fortunately for the country, there are clear, positive answers to both of these questions.

The fundamental problem with standard upper stages is the premise on which they are based. It is assumed that such a rocket stage is a good thing to have, that a single upper stage can be used by all spacecraft, thereby spreading the nonrecurring development cost among all user programs and avoiding expensive duplication. What this argument ignores is the enormous increase in recurring costs for each program that is forced to employ a standard stage which is designed for the most demanding user.

The basic problem is that each customer must pay for all the capability needed by all customers, whether that capability is used for a particular mission or not. This situation exists for several reasons:

• A standard upper stage must be sized to the largest, heaviest spacecraft.

• Such a stage must be prepared to fly into all possible orbits.

• The upper stage’s guidance system must be extraordinarily capable to accommodate all possible requirements. (IUS has three redundant guidance systems for this reason.)

• The most valuable spacecraft sets the reliability standard for all users, and each must pay the maximum bill.

Upper Stage Inflation

These relentless pressures progressively increase the price of any standard stage. We believe that these pressures are the driving forces behind the IUS rise from the $2 million per shot promised in 1974 to the $125 million per shot now projected for the mid-80s. As the unit price increases, users shy away from employing a standard upper stage and look to other launch methods. The Air Force Satellite Data System and Navstar programs have abandoned IUS for this reason, and no commercial firm is even contemplating IUS use. This dwindling customer base further accelerates the rise in launch prices. This situation worsens with time, compelling one to ask if there is a better, cheaper solution to the problem.

Integral Propulsion

The premise of integral propulsion is that each spacecraft program can supply its own post-shuttle propulsion most economically by incorporating it directly into the satellite. This has been done for 20 years by all commercial communications satellites which provide a solid rocket motor as an integral part of the spacecraft. This motor is fired at apogee and provides the thrust for transfer to synchronous orbit. The apogee impulse can also be supplied by a liquid propulsion system.

Most Air Force programs have not used integral propulsion because of their commitment to the Titan III/Transtage, or Titan 34D/IUS booster/upper stage combinations which provide the apogee boost as part of their service. (However, the FLTSATCOM and NATO satellite systems have used integral apogee propulsion.) Integral propulsion can also provide the perigee boost needed to shift a satellite from shuttle orbit to transfer orbit. This is the path that all commercial and some military users are taking.

The integral propulsion concept is simple. The shuttle itself carries a superb guidance system which can provide the satellite’s initial orientation. By spinning the satellite as it leaves the bay, the attitude reference is preserved. After a suitable separation delay, a rocket motor fires and the satellite proceeds into transfer orbit. Onboard the spacecraft is a guidance system that will position and orient the satellite for almost a decade after launch; the same spacecraft guidance system can easily control the satellite’s orientation during transfer orbit and during kick motor firing. This “integral guidance” does the job that the three inertial measurement systems of the IUS are designed to do.

Are there any limits to the application of integral propulsion? Does it place any restrictions on the design of the satellite which make it unattractive, either in terms of size or type of stabilization?

The general answer to each question is no.

The nation has a rich inventory of liquid and solid propulsion rocket elements, a result of the Apollo, space shuttle, Minuteman, PAM and IUS programs. By combining these elements appropriately, satellites have been designed whose sizes cover the spectrum of shuttle capacity.

Advocates for the new Centaur standard upper stage argue that it is needed to put very large payloads into synchronous orbit. The fact is that a version of the Hughes integral propulsion multimission bus (MMB) is under design and development that will place nearly 11,000 pounds into stationary orbit. Integral propulsion does not restrict satellite size.

Dollars and Sense

One can compare the launch costs of various spacecraft by plotting the total launch cost – shuttle charge plus upper stage – vs. the initial in-orbit weight. This is illustrated by the chart below, using civilian spacecraft examples. Military programs follow the same trend.Boost2

This plot shows some dramatic differences. The TDRS and Intelsat VI spacecraft will have the same initial weight in synchronous orbit. TDRS gets there with the IUS (government-furnished) and Intelsat VI uses its own integral propulsion.

These two similar satellites have an enormous launch cost difference: $89 million (1986 launch, 1982 dollars), which explains why no commercial user is planning to go with IUS. Most of this difference is IUS cost, but a small component is additional shuttle user charge. TDRS plus IUS takes an entire shuttle bay while Intelsat VI takes half a shuttle. Leasat also uses integral propulsion and lies on the dotted line that characterized this approach.

Also shown on this curve is Intelsat V as it would be launched by shuttle and the PAM-A standard upper stage. The large launch cost of this combination explains why the original plan to launch Intelsat V on shuttles has been dropped in favor of Atlas Centaur and Ariane, even though these are expensive rockets.

Integral Propulsion Loomed Large in I-VI Win

Another compelling example of the economics attached to integral propulsion was provided by the Intelsat VI competition in 1981. Hughes proposed an integral propulsion spacecraft. Ford subcontracted with McDonnell Douglas for a new standard upper stage. Both avoided the IUS.

The Hughes cost was $50 million less for the initial development program and resulted in a $16 million advantage in launch cost for each additional satellite placed in service. This cost difference was overriding and resulted in INTELSAT’s contracting with Hughes.

Commercial satellite users are forced to face the launch cost issue squarely – their system cost is the sum of satellites and launches. The procedure in military programs is often different. Most spacecraft program managers do not budget for launch vehicles. Launchers and upper stages are developed and budgeted for in separate, parallel organizations. Since the combined expenditures of satellite and launch meet only at much higher levels, military spacecraft programs have no incentive to reduce launch costs. Indeed, satellite managers are often discouraged from second-guessing the programs of their comrades, who have been committed for three decades to providing standard upper stages. This independence is reinforced by the industrial base that provides these standard vehicles.

Propulsion proponents submit that continued development of standard rocket stages is necessary to maintain a healthy propulsion industry. In developing a rocket stage, however, only a minor fraction of the funds is spent on propulsion elements.

Other Issues

Standard stages have several other negative influences which are not commonly understood. Because of their size, both the IUS and Centaur rocket stages involve dedicating an entire shuttle launch to a single mission. Using these large stages thereby undermines the efficiency of launching several satellites in one mission, as is common in the commercial arena. Further, big stages lead to large spacecraft, with many payloads, and frustrate the commonsense objectives of proliferating our military space assets for both survivability and flexibility.

Integral propulsion provides a decisively cheaper solution for space systems. It has made standard upper stage approaches like IUS and Centaur completely obsolete. The country can no longer ignore the new technology.

The old solutions represent an unwarranted tax on space systems, a tax that the nation can no longer bear in silence.


HS 393A: New Domsat A-Building at SCG—The SCG Journal November 1983 transcribed by Faith MacPherson

It all began with the HS 333. Hughes built eight of this nifty little number, the first-generation domestic satellite which linked together the nearly 14,000 islands of Indonesia, brought dependable telephone and other communications services to the farthest reaches of Canada, and provided the United States, through Western Union, with the nation’s first commercial domsat communications system. Then came the by-now familiar and famous HS 376 spacecraft – the most purchased bus in the world. As you’re probably aware, 30 have been bought to date – a number of them by the users of those venerable HS 333s.HS393

And now there’s a new bird in the wings. For the past year SCG engineers have been working to define a growth version of the immensely popular HS 376. What they’ve come up with does indeed resemble a bigger, 50-percent-huskier version, 12 feet wide and about 33 feet tall with telescoping solar arrays and antenna reflector deployed. This is Hughes’ third-generation domestic satellite, the HS 393 – visually, an amalgam of the HS 376 and the giant Intelsat VI vehicle. When the satellites are placed side by side, the parentage is obvious (see art above.)

Within the space of a few short months, the Group has formed a team to build two flight models of the new-generation bird. That effort, the HS 393A program, is now well underway. The team members – more than 200 strong – have moved quickly to bring reality, in the form of aluminum honeycomb shelves, electronic black boxes, and composites structures, to the photon-ray concepts glowing on CAD terminal screens in design centers throughout El Segundo North. As Program Manager Pat Dougherty put it, “We’re running hard.”

Indeed. SCG management has committed the resources of the Group to an ambitious, and to some, a daunting delivery milestone of May 1985 for the first Ku band, 16-channel craft, being built for a customer as yet unannounced. The plan is to launch HS 393A-1 onboard shuttle flight STS-30 in September 1985, less than two years from now – a challenging schedule.

Yet the pace of work on 393A could be favorably compared with the strong, measured strides of a seasoned long-distance runner. All over the plant site and beyond, portions of the first spacecraft are taking shape. In Bldg S12, modules for the bird’s comm payload are being assembled. At the Hughes Industrial Electronics Group’s Electron Dynamics Division in Torrance, engineering and flight models of the advanced Ku band (14/12 GHz) TWTAs are being built in parallel efforts. Power and Propulsion specialists in Bldg S34 are creating cells for the satellite’s nickel hydrogen batteries; fabricators are laying up the thrust tube – the core structure of the spacecom bus. And in S31, Digital Electronics and Power experts are manufacturing parts kits and units for 393A’s telemetry and command subsystem.

Apparently Hughes SCG’s competition is moving in a similar direction. Ford Aerospace’s Western Development Laboratories Division in Palo Alto, Calif., has filed with the FCC to launch in 1987 an enhanced domsat based on the Intelsat V bus. RCA Astro-Electronics, Princeton, N.J., is guilding a larger version of its “assembly line” Satcom domsat. Called Satcom 4000, the bird has a reserved seat on a shuttle flight in September 1985. The customer is RCA Americom.

“We’re envisioning the basic HS 393 bus as a follow-on spacecraft for our customers who want more power and enhanced capabilities,” said Dick Brandes, Division 43 manager. HS 393A-1 and A-2 will carry a total of 24 Ku band TWTAs each, but experts say that the 393 bus is capable of supporting up to twice the communications payload (48 transponders) of an HS 376 (24 transponders), and will be capable of generating more than 2,000 watts of electrical power. This is considerably more than the HS 376’s 900-watt capability, and approaches the powerful Intelsat VI’s 2,300 to 4,000 watt range.

While these first two HS 393s can’t fly on the European Ariane 4 launcher, as Intelsat VI can, future birds in the family will be launchable either by a space shuttle or European Space Agency’s Ariane 4 expandable rocket. Unlike Intelsat VI, however, the 393 will not take up half of the shuttle bay (30 feet). In fact, this new communications bird will only use about 50 percent more room than an HS 376. The Frisbee-ejected HS 393 will use slightly less than 15 feet of the bay.

For its size the big bird will indeed stow compactly – a fact largely due to its telescoping solar drums, and another design concept, this one borrowed from the Leasat widebodies: a built-in (or integral) perigee stage rocket motor (PKM).

“Particularly where the shuttle is concerned, compact spacecraft are cost-effective spacecraft,” Brandes pointed out.

Does the emergence of this bigger “son of HS 376” spell the end for the current Hughes best-seller? Not at all, said Steve Pilcher, Division 43 assistant manager who oversees the organization’s Advanced Programs Lab.

“The new HS 393 spacecraft fills a gap between the HS 376 and Intelsat VI. It will have its place in the Hughes satellite family, just as HS 376 does.”


The Williams Patent Litigation–Los Angeles Times

Hughes Aircraft Asks $1 Billion From U.S. Over Satellite Patent                          Ralph Vartabedian from the Los Angeles Times February 3, 1988                Reprinted With Permission

In the first day of what was described as the largest patent infringement trial ever, Hughes Aircraft claimed Tuesday that the federal government stole a key satellite design that eventually became the basis for a world revolution in communications technology.

The Los Angeles-based aerospace company is seeking damages of $1.2 billion from the federal government in U.S. Claims Court. The trial, the final phase of a 17-year legal dispute, opened in a courtroom at the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena.

Hughes has already won two previous trials, in which federal courts upheld Hughes’ claim to a valid patent on the satellite device and then ruled that the government had infringed on it.

The current trial, which involves the penalty portion of the complex legal case, is expected to go on for six to nine months. Hughes attorney Sheldon Karon of Chicago said the amount of damages sought is a record.

“This dwarfs anything before it,” Karon said. “There has been nothing that even approaches it.” If Hughes wins the $1.2 billion it seeks, it would be the largest award for patent infringement ever made. But a current case that Polaroid has brought against Kodak could also reach the billion-dollar level and might be trebled under certain circumstances. Under patent law, damages awarded against the government cannot be trebled.

Justice Department attorneys Tuesday sharply disputed Hughes’ claims.

“It is overstated by many, many, many millions of dollars,” Thomas J. Byrnes, the Justice Department attorney representing the government, said in an interview. He added that the Justice Department recently filed a motion for a new trial on the portions of the case that upheld the patent and that found the government infringed on the patent.

At issue is a patent granted to Hughes for a simple way of controlling satellites in orbit. The device was the invention of Donald D. Williams, a young, Harvard-educated physicist on Hughes’ staff in the 1960s.

“The guy was a genius,” A. W. (Tony) Karambelas, Hughes’ staff vice president for patents and licensing, said during a recess at the trial. “We will introduce evidence that over 100 satellites have used this Williams’ patent.”

The crux of the case is the allegation that the Air Force appropriated the Williams’ patent for use on military satellites produced by other contractors, such as Ford Aerospace, TRW and Rockwell International, Karambelas said. Those companies are protected by the government against patent-infringement actions, but Hughes alleges that it was never compensated by the government for its invention.

At Tuesday’s court session, Albert Hibbs, a former scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, testified about the critical importance of the Williams’ invention in allowing satellites to be controlled in orbit.

The Williams’ device involved use of a single rocket thruster, the firing of which could be precisely timed to stabilize and control the position of a spinning satellite. By firing the thruster in timed pulses, it could accomplish what otherwise would require a heavier system.

To explain the concept to Claims Court Judge James T. Turner, a videotape was used showing a computer simulation of a satellite in orbit. Justice Department attorneys objected to the demonstration, saying that a computer simulation does not amount to “substantive evidence.” Turner took the objection under advisement and said he would rule later.

Williams died in January, 1966, nearly a decade after his invention had revolutionized communications technology, without gaining wide recognition for his accomplishments. But an account of his work in the Hughes Aircraft employee newspaper noted that he once volunteered his life savings to the company when funding for his satellite work was jeopardized.

“When he put that check down on my desk, I became convinced that this type of dedication just has to be supported,” Hughes Aircraft General Manager Pat Hyland was quoted as saying.

On Friday, the court will convene at Hughes Aircraft’s Space & Communications Group’s satellite facility in El Segundo, where Hughes Aircraft Chairman Albert Wheelon will testify.

Judge in $1.2-Billion Case Sees How Satellites Are Built
Hughes Aircraft Patent Suit Shifts to Plant                                                                       Ralph Vartabedian from the Los Angeles Times February 6, 1988                Reprinted With Permission

U.S. Claims Court Judge James T. Turner traded his black judicial robe for a white one Friday as he convened an extraordinary court session inside the El Segundo satellite production facilities of Hughes Aircraft, which is suing the government for patent infringement.

Donned in a technician’s white smock, Turner was given a nearly three-hour show-and-tell session by Hughes Aircraft Chairman Albert Wheelon, who explained in detail how communications satellites are built.

Hughes is suing the federal government for $1.2 billion for infringing on a key patent that Hughes believes enabled the creation in 1963 of practical communications satellites and their growth into a multibillion-dollar industry.

The trial, which began earlier this week, is the final phase of a 17-year legal battle that Hughes has pressed to obtain recognition and compensation for what is known in the company as the “Williams patent.” It is named for Donald Williams, a Harvard-educated scientist who invented it in the early 1960s.

Hughes has already won in two trials in which federal courts upheld that the Los Angeles-based aerospace company holds a validpatent and that the government had infringed on it. The current trial is the penalty portion of the case.

Wheelon testified Friday that Williams’ patented invention is used in virtually all of the 82 Hughes commercial satellites produced since 1963, worth $5.8 billion.

“I believe it (the patent) has been the essential ingredient in our business,” Wheelon told the judge, as he pointed to a table containing scale models of more than a dozen Hughes satellites.

An entourage of court clerks, attorneys and reporters followed Wheelon around the facility, known in the industry as a “high bay,” as he explained each of the steps of producing a satellite and how the complex machines work in the cold vacuum of space.

Justice Department attorneys have sharply disputed Hughes’ claims in the case and said they are exaggerated many times over. But at Friday’s session, Wheelon clearly enjoyed a home court advantage inside the spacecraft production facility.

At one point, Justice Department attorney Thomas J. Byrnes demanded to know whether a screw used on one satellite was of the common household variety.

“It isn’t as simple as that,” Wheelon explained patiently with a smile, launching into a technical discussion of the thermal loads that are generated by solar rays as a satellite circles the Earth.

A few unusual interruptions marked the court session, such as when a fork-lift truck intervened as Wheelon was describing the operation of the huge Intelsat VI satellite, a 5,000-pound behemoth that Hughes is building for international telephone communications.

A young woman, loaded onto something called a “diving board,” was hoisted high above the Intelsat satellite to make some adjustments to the craft’s antennae as the court session continued below.

“This is the largest insured value in the world,” Wheelon said about his spacecraft plant. “It is higher than Tiffany’s.”

Hughes officials said they wanted Judge Turner to see exactly how complex are the production and testing requirements in the communications satellite industry.

If Turner was impressed, he did not show it. He listened quietly to Wheelon’s long discourse on satellites, occasionally asking a question. He pointed to a rocket nozzle and asked Wheelon if Hughes still uses only a 5-pound thruster to control the several-ton satellites.

Much like the system used in 1963 for Hughes’ Syncom, the first practical communications satellite, only one small thruster is used to control Hughes satellites in space, Wheelon said.

A. W. (Tony) Karambelas, Hughes’ patent attorney, said more than 100 satellites have been built by the government using the Williams patent.

“When Williams first conceived of the idea, the government said it would never work,” Karambelas recalled in an interview Friday. “After Williams proved that it could work, the government said, ‘Thank you very much, we own it.’ After we fought them on it and won our patent, they said, ‘What? Pay for that? It’s worthless.’ We have had little choice but to fight them all these years.”

The size of patent infringement awards has grown dramatically in recent years as courts increasingly are willing to recognize the claims of major corporations.

Legal Blunder May Be Costly to Hughes Aircraft
Could Lose $270-Million Claim; Judge in Patent Case Cites Error by Lawyers Ralph Vartabedian from the Los Angeles Times February 6, 1988              Reprinted With Permission

A legal blunder in a patent infringement case brought by Hughes Aircraft against the federal government, the largest patent case in history, may end up costing the company $270 million, The Times has learned.

The blunder came to light in a ruling handed down last September by U.S. Claims Court Judge William T. Turner, who said Hughes’ lawyers had made a “unilateral mistake.” The ruling was only recently published in a patent law journal.

In addition, five knowledgeable sources–including lawyers, government officials and individuals close to Hughes–said it is widely accepted that a legal oversight caused the potential financial setback.

Hughes officials and attorneys declined to comment. John F. Walker, managing partner at Latham & Watkins, the law firm representing Hughes in the case, said his firm had not made any error.

Hughes Aircraft, a General Motors subsidiary, has been suing the federal government during the last 18 years for patent infringement on a complex device used to control orbiting satellites. Hughes is claiming $3.16 billion in damages, according to court documents.

Says U.S. Stole Design

Turner’s ruling found that Hughes had inadvertently released the government from some of its liability when the company signed a separate legal settlement with Ford Motor, which it was suing for infringement of the same patent.

The patented machine was invented in the early 1960s by Donald Williams, a young genius at Hughes who later commited suicide.Hughes claims that the government stole the design and used it on 108 satellites without any royalties being paid to Hughes.

The device allows a single small rocket motor to control the orbit of a spinning satellite by employing gyroscopic principles.Hughes has asserted that the invention enabled the creation of practical communications satellites, today a multibillion-dollar industry.

But government attorneys say that Hughes has overblown its claims “many times over” and that it does not possess a validpatent.

Nonetheless, the Los Angeles-based aerospace firm has already won two previous trials against the government, in which federal courts have found that Hughes has a valid claim to a patent on the device and that the government infringed on that patent.

Until Turner’s decision in September, which was reprinted in the U.S. Patent Quarterly, it appeared that the company was on the home stretch toward winning a giant award. The current phase of the case involves setting the penalty against the government.

Hughes is seeking a royalty of 15% of the cost of the government satellites, in addition to “delay compensation” to make up for the years that it was denied the royalties.

But Hughes’ legal position was rocked Sept. 29, when Turner threw out Hughes’ infringement claims on 13 government satellites, which were built by Ford Aerospace, a unit of Ford Motor. At least two requests for a rehearing on the ruling have been denied, but an appeal is expected.

The royalties and delay compensation on those 13 satellites represented $270 million worth of claims against the government, according to a secret court filing that Hughes made Oct. 7. Under the Justice Department’s method of valuing the satellites, however, the 13 spacecraft might be worth only $50 million.

Reported in Results

The ruling that threw out claims on the 13 satellites was based on wording contained in an out-of-court settlement with Ford. That settlement was never disclosed by either Hughes or Ford, but knowledgeable sources said Ford agreed to pay Hughes $75 million.

A Ford spokeswoman declined to comment other than to say that the money was properly reported in the auto maker’s financial results for 1987, even though it was not specifically identified in that report.

Sources close to the patent case say Ford wanted to keep the agreement secret because it was embarrassed by the large amount of the loss. At the same time, the award provided Hughes with badly needed income at a time when its operations were being hurt by other problems.

Turner, who sits on the U.S. Claims Court bench in Washington, wrote in his ruling last September that “the agreement provided for payment to Hughes by Ford of an amount which, though shielded from public disclosure, may fairly be characterized as highly significant even to large corporations in the aerospace industry.”

Used 2 Law Firms

In the settlement, which was executed Sept. 10, 1987, Hughes agreed to a provision that released Ford customers from any liability for infringement. Turner quoted the secret agreement as saying, “The license granted hereunder shall extend to all customers for and users of said devices made or sold by Ford. . . . ”

When the Justice Department heard about the Ford settlement, its patent attorneys immediately believed that the provision would release the government from any liability on the satellites that Ford built for the government.

And Turner ruled that the language of the agreement “could hardly be more clear cut.”

Turner went even further in his opinion, saying: “Hughes, drafter of the settlement agreement, could have avoided the current dispute merely by inserting ‘except the United States’ after the language releasing Ford customers and users of Ford products.”

The reason such language was not inserted may be related to the fact that Hughes had two different law firms pursuing its patentinfringement claims.

For more than a decade, well-known patent attorney Sheldon Karon of Chicago successfully represented Hughes in its case against the government. But in the Ford settlement, Hughes’ in-house lawyers turned to Latham & Watkins of Los Angeles.

Asked why he had not handled the Ford settlement, Karon responded: “I don’t know. You would have to ask Dick Alden that.”

The reference was to Richard Alden, who was both general counsel of Hughes Aircraft and a senior parter of Latham & Watkins for many years. In 1985, he retired from the law firm but remained at Hughes, taking the additional title of vice chairman there, until his retirement last year. He could not be reached for comment.

Walker, the managing partner of Latham & Watkins, said he is not familiar with the details of the Ford settlement, but he asserted strongly that the law firm had not erred.

“If you are asking whether Latham & Watkins made a mistake,” he said, “everything I know is that we didn’t make a mistake at all in the case.”

Karon said he did not personally believe that the Ford settlement was flawed.

“I wasn’t there in the negotiation,” he remarked. “I have seen enough of these situations where hindsight is 20/20. I don’t know what kinds of things were left vague in the hopes of getting by.”

Karon asserted unsuccessfully before the Claims Court that since Hughes had never claimed any liability by the government in its suit against Ford, there could not be a release of government liability in the settlement.

Rejected Argument

Turner rejected that and other Hughes arguments. He found that Ford had fully understood what the release meant and that there had not been a “mutual mistake.”

The judge wrote: “At best, therefore, there was a unilateral mistake, which is insufficient as a matter of law to invalidate the release.”

After Turner’s ruling, Hughes made several attempts to obtain a rehearing. And still another law firm began representing Hughes.Kirkland & Ellis, a big Chicago law firm, made court filings asking for a rehearing on the matter.

U.S. in Last-Ditch Effort to Thwart Suit by Hughes
Aerospace: The Pentagon allegedly stole satellite technology. A judgment up to $1.2 billion is expected in 23-year-old case.                                                             Ralph Vartabedian from the Los Angeles Times May 23, 1994                                                                                   Reprinted With Permission

WASHINGTON — Staring at a likely $1-billion judgment, the federal government is making an 11th-hour effort to undermine apatent infringement case brought by Hughes Aircraft 23 years ago.

A final ruling on the amount owed to Hughes by the government is expected to be handed down by the end of May by U.S. Court of Claims Judge James T. Turner, who presided over a one-year trial in 1988 and has been methodically considering a final ruling for five years.

Attorneys close to the case and outside experts predict that Turner’s ruling is likely to fall in a range of $800 million to $1.2 billion, making it the largest patent judgment in history against the federal government.

Even now in the face of the verdict, lawyers from the Justice Department are searching for a magic bullet that would deflate theHughes case, which alleges the Pentagon stole the technology that enabled the communications satellite revolution.

Justice Department attorneys are seeking any information or theories from outsiders or experts that might blow a hole in Hughes’case, according to several defense-industry and patent attorneys across the country.

“They are having apoplexy because they are afraid Congress is going to kill them,” said Herbert Fenster, a leading defense-industry lawyer. “They are trying to find some technical way to kill the case.”

Justice attorneys declined to be interviewed, but in response to a question about the efforts, department spokesman John Russell acknowledged: “We are always looking for evidence for bolstering our arguments.”

The last-ditch effort has amazed Hughes attorneys. “They have dredged up everything over the years,” said Sheldon Karon, a Chicago attorney who represents the company. “Some of it has been in the class of Elvis sightings. I can’t imagine what they would find at this stage.”

Hughes asserted in the case that the Pentagon infringed on an invention by Donald Williams, a brilliant young engineer at Hugheswho in the early 1960s developed a simple lightweight device for controlling a communications satellite in orbit. With Williams’ concept, a spinning satellite can be controlled in every axis with just a single rocket thruster.

The Claims Court has already ruled that Hughes’ patent was valid and that the government indeed infringed upon it. The last step is the monetary ruling.

The award will depend on two parts, the royalty rate on the value of the satellites and the interest rate to compensate Hughes for the long delays in getting its money. Hughes is seeking a 15% royalty rate, while the Justice Department has argued for 1%.

And the Justice Department has also suggested that the interest accruing on those royalties should be based on short-term Treasury Department bills, while Hughes has argued that its annual return on equity would represent how it could have invested the royalties.

The judgment could be as little as $84 million if Turner fully accepts the Justice Department’s formula, according to Victor Savikas, a Hughes attorney in Los Angeles. But Savikas added that the Los Angeles-based defense contractor could realize a mind-boggling $6 billion under the company’s preferred formula.

Turner, who is widely praised for his careful rulings, is likely to throw out both positions, striving for a conservative decision that will withstand likely appeals. Experts say the most probable outcome is a 5% to 8% royalty rate and interest based on the same rate that the IRS uses to compensate taxpayers on old refunds. On that basis, the verdict would fall into a range of $800 million to $1.2 billion.

Hughes attorneys say they give Justice Department lawyers credit for stalling the patent award for so many years. “The government hasn’t paid a dime,” Karon said. “They have done a good job of staving off judgment day. John Gacy went 14 years before he took his final walk. This is even longer.”

Hughes Wins $114 Million in Patent Case
Technology: It is the largest such award ever against the U.S. government, but it falls far short of the company’s expectations.                                                         Ralph Vartabedian 
from the Los Angeles Times June 18, 1994,                       Reprinted With Permission

After a two-decade legal battle, a judge Friday awarded Hughes Aircraft $114 million for the aerospace firm’s patent claim that the U.S. government stole the technology that enabled the communications satellite revolution.

Although the award ranks as the largest ever levied against the federal government for patent infringement, it falls far below even the smallest sum that Hughes hoped to win in the high-stakes case. Both sides are expected to appeal.

When the trial began in 1988, Hughes had sought an award of $1.2 billion, and at one time company attorneys speculated about a potential award of $6 billion. But the firm’s high hopes were dashed Friday by a 26-page opinion from U.S. Court of Claims Judge James T. Turner.

“I am shocked that it is this low,” said Mark Meltzer, a former Hughes attorney who worked on the patent case. “This is a lot lower than anybody expected. Taxpayers should be delighted.”

But Victor Savikas, an attorney representing Hughes, said the award “is a lot of money, though we asked for more.”

Justice Department lawyer Vito Di- Pietro, representing the government, said Turner’s decision on the actual value of the patent“was exactly what we had proposed and exactly what was supported by the evidence.”

The Hughes patent involved a device invented by Donald T. Williams, a brilliant young Harvard-educated engineer at Hughes in the 1960s who later committed suicide. Williams devised a simple, lightweight system to control the attitude of a satellite with a single rocket thruster.

In 1963, Hughes launched its Syncom, the first communications satellite. It paved the way for Hughes to dominate the world market, which it does even today. The effort was all the more impressive given that the Pentagon’s own attempt to build such a spacecraft resulted in a design so heavy that no rocket at the time could launch it.

As a result of the technical success of the Williams patent, Hughes had long expected to reap major rewards. Last fall, Turner ruled that the government had infringed the patent on 81 satellites over the years, worth a total of $3.5 billion.

The final step in the case involved determining the royalty rate and an interest penalty. In both areas, Hughes got less than it wanted.

Turner rejected the company’s assertion that it deserved a royalty of 15% on the $3.5 billion worth of government satellites using the device. Instead, Turner awarded a 1% royalty rate, exactly what the Justice Department had proposed as fair.

Among the millions of documents involved in the case, a few key pieces of evidence appear to have seriously deflated Hughes’claims.

In his ruling, Turner found that shortly after obtaining its patent, Hughes offered a direct competitor a license at a rate equivalent to about 1.2%. In a letter, Hughes cited that as its normal royalty for scientific and experimental satellites.

Moreover, Hughes was never able to license the invention to even a single company, excluding Ford Motor Co., which settled a separate infringement suit by Hughes.

But Savikas said the letter cited by Turner was involved in settlement negotiations for a civil suit and thus should not have been admitted as evidence–apparently raising a potential appeal issue. And he said the failure to obtain other licenses resulted in large part from the government’s infringement in the first place.

For Judge Turner, the ruling means he is free at last of the long-running dispute, and in honor of the occasion, he retreated to his chambers and broke open a bottle of champagne after handing down his decision.

How much of the award will be consumed by legal fees remains unclear. Meltzer said Hughes’ past legal expenses have amounted to “a significant percentage of this award.” But Savikas, Hughes’ current attorney, insisted that the company’s legal fees are “not anywhere near a substantial part of the award.”