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Did Arthur C Clarke invent Geostationary orbit of satellites ?

  1. Oct 13, 2014 #1
    I have been told that the discovery of the Geostationary orbit of satellites was attributed to Arthur C Clarke the well known writer of Science Fiction stories. Is it possible that he also made a serious study of this subject and were there any formulas involved which he might have published? Jockndoris
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  3. Oct 13, 2014 #2


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    There is a web page with some information: http://lakdiva.org/clarke/1945ww/

    Apparently, he was the first to make that proposal, published in the now-defunct magazine 'Wireless World'.
  4. Oct 13, 2014 #3

    Doug Huffman

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  5. Oct 20, 2014 #4
  6. Oct 20, 2014 #5
    Thank you very much for your reply. I have looked at the link which was most helpful
    I had asked the question because in as book I have published recently called Haunted by Neil Armstrong by Neil Burns, I talked about a paper I had written at University of St Andrews in 1963. It concerned the difficulties the Americans would face in trying to get to the Moon by the end of that decade. One of the points of difficulty was getting into a stable orbit which they apparently knew nothing about.
    I had said that I had read that Arthur C Clarke had invented getting into geostable orbit which was a remarkable development.
    Some critics said that it was only discovered much later and of course with your link I am proved to be right. Thanks again Neil
  7. Oct 20, 2014 #6


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    Do note that there's a difference between saying he came up with the idea of putting communication satellites in the geo-stat orbit (which he apparently did), and saying he invented the geo-stat orbit (which is probably as old as Newton), or ways of putting stuff in said orbit.
    The way you framed your statements so far is ambiguous enough to possibly be construed as any of the above meanings. Perhaps the criticism you speak of was a result of simple misunderstanding, stemming from an imprecise statement about the issue?
  8. Oct 20, 2014 #7


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  9. Oct 20, 2014 #8


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    Agreed. In particular, the word "invent" has a much stricter definition than is being used here. It means to demonstrate either with a model or with math exactly how something is done, not just envisioning something (we get this on PF every few months: "I've invented..." -- no you haven't). Clarke had great vision, but he was most certainly not an inventor and it is unlikely that most of his ideas would have been patentable in the way hea conceived them. Indeed, geostationary orbits probably weren't patentable (did anyone ever try?) because they were a fairly obvious consequence of Newton's law of gravity.
  10. Nov 7, 2014 #9
    That is the advantage of being a science fiction writer, you can have a brilliant idea that may indeed be a possibility, like anti gravity flight, yet you don't have to provide any facts of science or the math behind such and idea to make it real in your writing. Does that mean Vern invented submarines? Since this effect is so common in fictional writing, one would not be to far out in left field, to assume that the creative process enables one to tap into the Universal Subconscious, where all idea's are hatched. Some make it into the real world through blood, sweat and hard scientific work, others just percolate up and out as ideas in creative endeavors. When technology catches up, they are often pulled into our reality as useful tools.

    I work as a designer in the real world, and I can design all kinds of things that can be built but, I myself cannot build them, often many simply cannot be built within the limits of current technologies.
  11. May 19, 2015 #10
  12. Oct 21, 2015 #11
    I think you misread or maybe the title of the article is misleading. It goes on to state:
    "It is important to keep in mind however that the orbits themselves aren’t patented, technological solutions for providing telecommunications which utilize equipment in those orbits are patent eligible."

    What this is saying is you can only patent technologies that utilize that orbit.

    But the orbit is much like a parcel of land: under international law, "whoever gets there first" can stake their claim on it--just keep in mind, other items can "share" that same orbital path your satellite follows. And it can quickly become a very messy international incident if your satellite interferes with another's property.
  13. Oct 21, 2015 #12


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    The article is also reprinted in his 1999 collection of essays Greetings, Carbon-based Bipeds
  14. Oct 21, 2015 #13


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    It's true that Clarke is generally acknowledged as the originator of that idea, but space-travel pioneer Hermann Noordung had proposed it thirty years before and in much detail, in a book that is now freely available in the internet:

  15. Oct 21, 2015 #14
    Often the person who gets the credit isn't the originator. It's the guy who pushes the idea through and deals with all the hassles of resistance who (deservedly) gets the credit.
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