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The Sky is NOT the Limit - Nor is Space for Everyone on Earth

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

The story behind EXODUS ORBITALS

Exodus Orbital logo space entrepreneurs
Exodus Orbital's logo - space entrepreneurs

This account of Dennis Silin's life was put forward for the BIS - British Interplanetary Society magazine. Copyright © Peter Sissons 2023


Dennis Silin was nine years old at the close of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1991.

Throughout his early years, Dennis' young mind was full of the wonders of spaceflight and the spectacle of the Milky Way and star-filled cosmos - his vivid imagination nurtured by his family's extensive library of Russian and international authors of classic science-fiction books - Ivan Yefremov, Arkady and Boris Srugatsky, Clifford Simak, Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury science fiction author
Science-fiction novel

To keep his imaginative mind firmly grounded, Dennis devoured the contents of popular science books, with their contents soaked up like ink on blotting paper.

Dennis graduated high school in 1999, the first year astronauts lived aboard the ISS - the International Space Station - the most massive space construction completed in November 1998.

 International Space Station rocket satellite
The International Space Station

Its collaborative assembly by Russia - FKA, USA - NASA, Europe - ESA, Japan - JAXA, Canada - CSA, brought many aspects of Dennis' stories of science fiction into science fact. The success of this project transfixed him – somehow, somewhere, he had to be part of this rapidly growing space community and business!

However, dreams are dreams, and sometimes they are hard to fulfil. As time passed at university, personal circumstances caused Dennis to leave his degree studies unfinished in Ukraine.

Step in, mum and dad. 2004 they persuaded Dennis to begin a new degree course in Canada. He chose computer science - a familiar subject, although he had teetered on picking aerospace engineering.

Once again, personal circumstances caused interruptions to Dennis' studies. His solace was to gaze spellbound at the night sky, its surface painted with the twinkling pinpricks of light from millions of stars and unknown worlds - a passion still with him from childhood.

This passion encouraged Dennis' wish to learn as much as possible about astronomy, astronautics and aerospace-related subjects, primarily using the internet’s vast knowledge base. One blog that stands out to him is Centauri Dreams by Paul Gilster (www.centauri-

Imagining and planning interstellar exploration Paul Gilster
Imagining and planning interstellar exploration

dreams.org), which deals with imagining and planning interstellar exploration. Paul's blog started in August 2004, covering subjects as diverse as 'Osiris-REx: Asteroid Sample Site Flyover', 'From Spitzer to JWST's Early Targets', to 'A Deep Dive into Tidal Lock' and 'A Possible Proxima Centauri C'.

2008 was a pivotal year for Dennis - the reality of modern space travel met him face to face. Attending the Toronto Science Centre, he talked with Anousheh Ansari,

Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian American astronaut  ISS Soyuz spacecraft
Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian American astronaut

an Iranian American astronaut, who gave a presentation about her life and space flight onboard a Soyuz to the ISS. She was the fourth self-funded space tourist and the first woman to pay for a return ticket to the space station.


From 2007 to 2008, the Russian economy improved, allowing more significant funding for the country's space programme. A new ambitious federal space plan began, resulting in a substantial boost to the industry and its primary space vehicle and satellite contractors - RKK Energiya, Khrunichev, TsSKB-Progress, ISS Reshetnev and NPO Lavochkin.

Parallel with these changes, Dennis was active on several Russian forums covering futurology and space exploration. Lively debating examined scenarios on future spaceflight - enthusiasm born from the Russian people's proud connection with space and spaceflight - a legacy of the 1950s and 1960s Space Race.

2009 saw Dennis succeeding with his studies and graduating from Toronto's Ryerson University. Soon after, he received his first job offer as part of a financial software company's technical support team that would begin several weeks later. He used his spare time to start formulating a defined plan about how humanity might succeed at interstellar travel without the need for exotic solutions.

An ongoing, part science fiction, part futurology exploration project called Orion's Arm Universe Project (www.orionsarm.com) caught Dennis' imagination in 2010. It explores the future of humanity in 9,000 years. It features fabulous worlds and creatures, delivered through fantastic and beautiful art that easily rivals that in Star Wars and Star Trek. However, this imaginary future is constructed and based on recognised science, credible technologies and lifelike exobiology - the research for living bodies not of this earth and their interaction with extra-terrestrial environments.

Dennis' calling to be a part of the real world of spaceflight, rockets, and satellites balanced his interests in science fiction - with his spare time devoted to committing to paper his plan and program to join the business of space travel and exploration.

In 2011, a unique and pivotal event cemented Dennis' dream into the concrete reality it is today.


DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) organised the '100 Year Starship

100 Year Starship
100 Year Starship discussions

project' that is continuing today (www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100_Year_Starship). According to Paul Eremenko, NASA Ames Research Center study program manager, 'The endeavour was meant to excite several generations to commit to the research and development of breakthrough technologies to advance the eventual goal of interstellar space travel.'.

At the project's Orlando 2011 symposium, Dennis presented his abstract ideas from a paper published in the prestigious journal of the British Interplanetary Society (www.jbis.org.uk/paper.php?p=2013.66.5). At the event, the mixture of astronauts (including Anousheh Ansari), scientists and space industry entrepreneurs confirmed to Dennis that he had to work amongst this community of specialist professionals in the future. He knew this was easier said than done - he desperately needed better design, engineering and scientific skills to make the dream a reality.


The drive to accomplish a goal others can never hope to achieve is a powerful force for an individual to possess. Dennis had this drive, and in 2016, he moved to England, having obtained a place at Cranfield University

Cranfield College in England
Cranfield College in England

to read astronautics and space engineering. However, it came with a caveat - Dennis had to complete an extra year of pre-MSc engineering studies before pursuing his Doctorate.

2017 Dennis saw great success, passing the additional examinations and beginning his master's program. Over the next two years, Professor David Cullen and course director Doctor Jennifer Kingston kept a watchful eye over their most-promising student.

Dennis' drive for success not only brought the rewards of a doctorate in astronautics and space engineering, but it was crucial because of his choice of university. Cranfield brought him together with his future team members and co-founders of a new company called Exodus Orbitals (www.exodusorbitals.com).

exodus orbitals' website
https://www.exodusorbitals.com/index.html

The crossroads and signposts of life offer many fundamental choices for people. A specific set of these life options had brought this group of post-graduates together. Each student was from a different background, country and career path. However, they all had the same goal – to be part of the community participating in space exploration and make it accessible to everyone.


2018 saw the founding of Exodus Orbitals, with the company having lofty ambitions, including building artificial gravity space stations – a tall order for a fledgling concern. The new space company wisely reduced its goals to designing 'software-defined satellites' - although constructing space stations was still on their wish list!

Dennis' team includes James Shawe, engineering team leader; Mark Perkins, operations lead; George Kersey and Paul Le Henaff, systems engineers and Bojan Seirovski, a software engineer.

Dennis knew he was part of a team whose membership possessed a collective drive to make a success of their new venture. This drive produced the team's first notable milestone - a significant accomplishment for the small company – the cooperation in 2019 with the European Space Agency on their

CubeSats programmable satellites
CubeSats programmable satellites

.

The ESA rocket and the satellite payload lifted from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana in December 2019. Apart from the Soyuz-Fregat rocket carrying ESA's Cheops Exoplanet Satellite and Italy's Exoplanet Satellite, it had onboard three CubeSats, including ESA's OPS-SAT. The OPS-SAT design is to confirm that the mission's ten times more powerful experimental computer will reap significant improvements and benefits in the activation and management of the satellite's systems and experiments back at mission control.

Exodus Orbitals' mission specification features many satellite control goals and user-accessible features:

  • 3U CubeSat at 550km Low Earth Orbit

  • Precise 3-Axis Attitude Control System

  • UHF and S-Band Communications Systems

  • Dedicated Mission Flight Computer

  • Optical Imager with 50m/px resolution

  • Software Defined Radio Receiver

A white paper detailing the company's modus operandum can be downloaded from Exodus Orbitals' site (www.exodusorbitals.com/files/whitepaper.pdf). In relevant and financially-sound detail, the document explains how the company's team will fulfil their goal - to make participation in space exploration accessible to everyone.

An abstract:

"Satellite-as-a-service": a new approach for the space industry"

A shared-access, single host/multi-tenant satellite platform can dramatically lower the costs and accelerate the development schedule of many areas of space technology, particularly in the software domain. This approach can offer the ability to host multiple missions on a single spacecraft, sharing the capabilities of both the platform and payload instruments between multiple customers to perform mission operations and experiments according to their needs. Communication, marine and aircraft tracking, astronomical and Earth observation are among the most suitable mission types for such a scenario. The proposed system design will use multiple safety features, using a "defence-in-depth" strategy to minimise the risk of potentially faulty third-party mission software prematurely ending the satellite mission. These features will include extensive ground-segment-test-validation facilities, isolation of user-accessible hardware from the rest of the satellite subsystems and vetting execution of user software through the supervisory satellite flight computer. Our company is proposing to launch a simple Earth observation Cubesat to demonstrate the feasibility of this concept and offer an opportunity to get first-hand experience at software development and mission operations in a real-space environment for the broadest possible audience.'


Part of Exodus Orbitals' marketing and publicising campaign, managed by the team's Aaron Bond, included having a presence at Space Tech Expo in Bremen, Germany – a major exhibition of the services and products provided by the major players of the world's

space industries.

British Interplanetary Society - the Reinventing Space 2019 conference
The British Interplanetary Society - Reinventing Space 2019 conference

Exodus Orbitals' second essential and vital pivotal moment happened at this Expo – the company netted their first client!

The British Interplanetary Society aided Exodus Orbitals by offering the young company a discount on a sponsorship package for the Reinventing Space 2019 conference (www.rispace.org) held in Belfast in November 1019. The company was well-publicised, having its logo prominently at the convention.


What underlines all commercial enterprises is the need to make net profits to continue research, design, development and operation of a business, and Exodus Orbitals’ Edmond Tasellari, head of finance and leads, knows their company is no different. To ensure the growth of the company, Exodus Orbitals’ downloadable White Paper states in section 3:


Commercial Applications Summary

Our first mission will demonstrate proof-of-concept viability, with early users expected from hobbyist communities and educational institutions. Due to the space industry's complexity, cost and regulation barriers, this mission will allow them to participate in space exploration efforts at a previously too difficult level. Subsequent missions can host a more diverse array of instruments on much more robust platforms, satisfying the following requirements:

• Desired results can't be produced using ground-only platforms.

• Implementation functionality depends mostly on software technology.

• Platform assets can be shared between customers on a single satellite (multi-tenancy).

• Product or service can offer cost advantages compared to currently available solutions.

In all the above cases, this allows one satellite to host multiple tenants that can access platform features in a shared context, either sequentially or simultaneously. With the launch cost of even the smallest 1U CubeSat at around 100,000 USD, with development timelines in a range of 1.5-2 years, the availability of 'pay-per-use' access to a space-based platform can dramatically improve the cost-to-benefit ratio for the development of any satellite-based technology.'


Section 4 of the White Paper explains the possible satellite service types:

The implementation scenarios of the proposed shared-access satellite services can be broadly grouped into the following two areas:


'Satellite-as-a-service' - this can be the first step beyond a technology demonstrator mission. This solution will be similar to 'IaaS' (infrastructure-as-a-service) or 'PaaS' (platform-as-a-service) offerings from cloud computing vendors. The primary business purpose of this platform will be a development and qualification service with the possibility of hosting customer-developed applications subject to platform capabilities. Expected use cases will be testing the new control algorithms, qualification of mission software for other space missions or performing software experiments that would be too risky to trial on a larger and more costly satellite. This service will be initially aimed at the early adopters of our technology – small companies and individual entrepreneurs.

'Mission-as-a-service' or 'software-defined satellite' - this option is possible when sufficient funding is available and adequate experience gained, built on top of our previous technology, similar to the IT industry's 'SaaS' (software-as-a-service) solutions. With this level of service, more capable satellite hardware and software tools will become available, customised for the client's needs. Depending on the available payload instruments and subsystem capabilities, this satellite platform can execute several different missions. A single satellite can host multiple instruments with sufficient capabilities to allow customers to run their software packages in parallel.


The Exodus Orbitals team eagerly awaits to begin their operations in space. Denis would have looked on incongruously if, at nine years old in Ukraine, someone had told him that twenty-nine years later, he would be on the verge of testing the control and operation of his company's first satellite in space.

It may surprise the reader not to see references to Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos' multi-million-dollar-backed space project achievements throughout Dennis' story. The reason for this is simple. There isn't any disinterest in their successes or his wish to ignore them – it is because Dennis knew they did not inspire or contribute to his motivation to reach his goal. However, while at Cranfield University watching spellbound the first launch of Elon Musk's Falcon Heavy in February 2018,

the first launch of Elon Musk's Falcon Heavy in February 2018
The first launch of Elon Musk's Falcon Heavy in February 2018

Dennis knew his life's direction was correct. His drive to be a part of the space business had placed him in the right place, doing the right thing at the right time.

Those moments of clarity and conviction are rare to happen and impossible to forget.

Fate and the stars are on his side.


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