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Introducing the Moonbeam Orbiters Program, a New Way for Collators to Engage with Moonbeam and Moonriver

Sep 27, 2022

7 min read

This is an updated version of the article that was originally published July 11, 2022. Visit the Moonbeam Orbiters Program page on the Moonbeam Docs site for more details.

Moonbeam and Moonriver continue to thrive after the successful launches and have each built an active community of collators. In order to continue building on this growth, the Moonbeam Foundation is pleased to announce a new onramp into the collator ecosystem to encourage the continuation of a rich, diverse pool of collators and to introduce opportunities for new entrants to gain experience as a collator.

The Moonbeam Foundation has modeled this program on successful Polkadot and Kusama validator programs facilitated by the Web3 Foundation and Parity. The new collator rotation program, called the Orbiters program, is designed to maintain network health and decentralization. As demand for collator slots has increased, the Orbiters program allows collators with fewer resources to stay competitive and continue to participate in a collator pool.

Upon successful application to the program, participating collators will be in a regular rotation within fixed collator slots, essentially allowing multiple collators to share a slot. As a result of this sharing system, the participant will enjoy the stability of a structured environment and slightly reduced reward amounts when compared to the standard active set. This program aims to reduce stress on collators and share rewards among a larger community of independent collators.

Because the active production of blocks per collator will be reduced while waiting for their next rotation, the rewards for participation will also be lower than for a full slot. The tradeoff for the reduced award amount is stability in remaining in the active collator set. This will help avoid round-by-round stress, worrying about revocations, spot-buying tokens to stay in the set, etc. Each collator will need to determine if the stability/reward trade-off offered by the Orbiters program is right for them.

How Collators Help Maintain the Network

Collators produce blocks and support block liveness on the network. They offer up blocks to a shared set of validators on the Relay Chain for finalization. The role of a collator is similar to validators on Polkadot and Kusama, but collator nodes do not contribute to the safety of the network by validating blocks.

Collators are critical to network liveness, decentralization, censorship resistance, and security. Essentially, collators work to produce state transition proofs for validators based on the Polkadot and Kusama Relay Chains and maintain a full node on both the Relay Chain and parachain in which they operate.

This program is an opportunity to support the Moonbeam project and gain specialized knowledge while also earning real network rewards, such as Moonbeam’s native utility token, GLMR, and Moonriver’s native utility token, MOVR.

How the Orbiter Program Works

At launch, the collator pool for Moonriver and Moonbeam increased by 4 and 8 collator slots respectively, which are occupied by the Moonbeam Foundation. Twenty-four collators were added, three per slot, as part of the Phase 1 rollout, with a gradual expansion as needed to maintain a good participation rate.

The Orbiters program launched on Moonriver on July 19th, 2022. At that time, the collator pool increased by 8 slots, due to strong initial demand for the program. All the details of the program can be found on the Orbiter page on the documentation site.

.On September 26th, 2022, the Orbiters program launched on Moonbeam. The collator pool increased by 4 slots with 6 Orbiters each, resulting in 24 Orbiters, the same amount as Moonriver.

This program is currently in a trial period while the Moonbeam Foundation assesses the results and makes adjustments. There is no specific end date, but the trial may come to an end or materially change throughout the trial period. Participants are both encouraged to give feedback throughout the program as well as be aware that it may change from the concept explained here.

During the trial, here’s how the program works:

  • A predetermined number of collators will occupy each of the initial collator slots. This number can be found here but will vary by network and change with demand. Collators will be distributed evenly across the available Orbiter slots.
  • The rotations will occur every few rounds, the details are in the link above. The rotation will be in a fixed order, rotating through each collator in that Orbiter slot before starting again.
  • Rewards will be paid every round, based on the number of blocks successfully produced.
  • Collators can expect to receive roughly 1/x the rewards of comparable collators on the network, where x is the number of collators sharing that slot. Like all collator rewards, payouts will vary depending on performance, latency, and frequency of block production. More information on rewards.

Commitment from Participants

If selected, collators that participate in the Orbiter program have a few ongoing responsibilities:

  1. Provide an initial bond. On Moonriver, it is 400 MOVR, and the bond on Moonbeam is 30,000 GLMR Staking rewards will not be paid on this bond. This bond is posted to protect against bad behavior and will be subject to slashing.
  2. Operate the collator continuously, regardless of whether the collator is currently active in the rotation.
  3. Provide advance notification if they elect to leave the pool, so a new collator can be selected and rotated in. There may be a “cooldown” period to reenter the pool.
  4. Maintenance of the collator in good standing, as measured by the performance of their peers. If they fall below the acceptable threshold, they will be removed from the pool and demoted to the back of the waiting list for Moonbase Alpha. A new Orbiter from the waiting list will take their slot. More information about performance standards.

Failure to meet these commitments may result in a temporary removal from the Orbiters program for a one-week period. Ongoing failure to meet these commitments will result in removal from the program altogether.

Minimum Criteria for Orbiters Collators

Existing collators were given priority in joining this initial trial of the program. If successful, the Orbiters program will be made available for new applicants.

Orbiters were included on a first-come-first-serve basis following a call for participation in the Moonbeam collator Discord channel. These factors were weighed for inclusion in Phase 1:

  • Historical block production: no gaps, ability to meet SLA.
  • Performance benchmarking for previous nodes, measured by running a command on the node.

Provided the program moves to Phase 2, criteria for new applicants could include:

  • Past performance as an infrastructure provider including block production metrics, timeliness of upgrades, and overall performance.
  • Community involvement through channels like Discord.
  • Decentralization of node location.
  • Past participation in governance.

Program Eligibility

Orbiters must meet the following eligibility requirements in order to participate:

  • Due to the nature of the program, each Orbiter must pass an identity verification check, and cannot be a resident of certain jurisdictions.
  • Orbiters cannot run another active collator on the same network as their Orbiter. They can, however, run an active collator on Moonbeam and an Orbiter on Moonriver, or vice versa, as long as they do not also have both on the same network.
  • They must have demonstrated adherence to the stated collator guidelines in the past.

How to Apply

Anyone interested in becoming an Orbiter in the future must apply through this form and complete the application process. Eligibility requirements do apply. Collators must also prove their ability by operating a node on Moonbase Alpha before moving into the program on Moonriver and Moonbeam. For additional information on the steps required to become an Orbiter, please refer to the documentation site.