Published: Oct. 9, 2023

The In Orbit's co-founding team.
Patel (right) with fellow In Orbit co-founders Ryan Elliott and Antonio Coelho.

Ishaan Patel (MAeroEngr’18) is an CU Boulder aerospace alumnus with an entrepreneurial passion for space. He is co-founder and chief technolog officer of In Orbit Aerospace, which is developing uncrewed reentry vehicles and orbital utility stations to enable lower-cost in-space manufacturing and research infrastructure.

In your own words, what does your company do?

In Orbit Aerospace is building the infrastructure to enable mass manufacturing and research in space. Our company is developing uncrewed re-entry vehicles and orbital utility stations to enable a low-cost, seamless roundtrip service for researchers and manufacturers to create revolutionary products in microgravity and bring them back down for use here on Earth.

Why did you decide to take the plunge and start a business?

During my career within both the private sector and the government, I had the opportunity to work on novel technologies and ground-breaking projects. However, I could only apply certain aspects of my core research and technical interests at various different times; often, I had to either pick and choose between certain areas and didn’t get the chance to integrate all of my technical interests together on a single project. When my co-founders approached me with the concept of In Orbit Aerospace, I was immediately interested in taking the journey with them. In Orbit finally gave me an opportunity where I saw all of my research interests integrated into one core vision. Although running a start-up can feel like a rollercoaster, it’s exciting to be able to work on something I am truly passionate about in the NewSpace economy.

How did your education at CU Boulder prepare you for the challenge?

Attending CU Boulder was an integral part of my career trajectory. The CU Aerospace graduate program challenged me in my technical abilities, and I was able to learn concepts that I didn’t even know existed – all from some of the best professors in the world. Originally thinking I wanted to specialize in propulsion, I quickly changed course when I was introduced to the graduate level Orbital Mechanics class. I realized that astrodynamics, navigation, and control were my true passion. At CU, I got the opportunity to take amazing courses like Interplanetary Mission Design while participating in novel graduate projects with the mentorship of industry partners. If I could, I would have loved to stay and take many additional courses at CU Boulder. However, as my time in academia came to an end, I was well prepared to put theory into practice and tackle real-world applications in the aerospace industry.

In Orbit finally gave me an opportunity where I saw all of my research interests integrated into one core vision.

What do you like the most about your work at In Orbit Aerospace?

What I enjoy the most about my work at In Orbit Aerospace is being able to collaborate with colleagues from various different backgrounds. Although I have a responsibility to be a mentor and help my peers in their careers, I find myself lucky in that the mentorship is reciprocated. Every day, I learn something new from my colleagues – whether it’s a unique technical concept, or ways to improve my presentation or leadership skills. Running a business is quite different from engineering, but I am fortunate to have a team that helps me grow as an engineer and as an individual.

How has your company grown since being founded?

In Orbit started off with an idea from three aerospace engineers. We worked on weekends and after hours from our day jobs to prove technical feasibility and validate our business model. Once we got conviction, we decided to take the leap and go all-in. Over the course of a little over two years, we have experienced big losses and successes – all of which have helped guide the future of the company. When In Orbit had just three engineers, we could not imagine what it would be like to have a team of more than five. Today, we are a team of seven – and we even had three phenomenal interns join us this past summer! As we continue to grow, we take pride in maintaining a culture of balance, learning, and community within the company.

Find out more about In Orbit Aerospace at their website