ReOrbit’s Manifesto

ReOrbit
2 min readMar 23, 2021

There are roughly 3000 functional satellites orbiting our planet. From those 3000 satellites, the vast majority, if not practically all of them, are loners. They phone home at rigidly scheduled times, they report what they’ve seen. They clock-in and clock-out. They robotically point their antennas down, but seldom elsewhere. They are told not to talk to strangers.

Is about time they do.

Deep as we are in the era of information and communication technologies, where interconnection has become a must, space systems remain largely point-to-point. Constellations, as popular as they’re quickly becoming, are merely loose groups of satellites, not teams of satellites.

“A team is always a group, but a group is not always a team” says the phrase.

In any existing constellation, satellites are unaware of the existence of their fellow colleagues. The geometry such constellations describe in the sky is the work of a choreographer sitting on Earth, who, aided with a glorified calculator, tells them exactly where to stand when to fire their tiny thrusters, when not to. Decision-making is highly centralized. In other words, current constellations are basically made of expensive metallic puppets.

In the way space is (still) done, form follows function. One satellite = one function. From cradle to grave. Function is defined at the design stage and kept unchanged throughout the lifecycle. With this approach, a satellite knocked out is a mission knocked out. Every launch turns heart-stopping.

Why is this the case, you may think? Are the technologies to create distributed space systems immature? In these current times, when distributed and decentralized computing are omnipresent and have proved their potential, we are for sure not lacking the means to connect computers together and make them work towards a common goal, whether they are sitting in an office downtown or above the Karman line. We are not lacking the technology to autonomously fly spacecraft in specific geometries, nor are we lacking the protocol stacks to make them share data securely and reliably with each other. Everything is here, but needs to be properly united: all near-future space applications such as in-orbit inspection, debris removal, multistatic Earth Observation, refueling and servicing need these technologies to marry in order to become a reality. Future space is impossible without greater autonomy, connectivity and orbital agility.

Moreover, if you open the hood in any satellite, you still see overly ad-hoc contents. Satellite designers reinvent the carburetor every day. With high-performance computing platforms and standard high-speed interconnecting fabrics becoming ubiquitous, choosing components for satellites will soon equate to choosing components for a gaming PC. The Key is to make them work together in a fault-tolerant, mission-critical way. We are on this as well.

More modular space is coming. More distributed, more decentralized, more connected. Form stops the following function. What is more, function becomes reconfigurable, repurposable, and autonomous.

ReOrbit is on it.

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ReOrbit

ReOrbit is a startup headquartered in Helsinki, Finland. ReOrbit’s vision is to make space sustainable and reliable leading to a circular space economy.