This is the first edition of Shooting for the Stars, a monthly look into the Aurora/NEAR ecosystem. Each month I will be recapping statistics, events, and updates – everything you need to stay up to date on all things Aurora!
For those of you new to the ecosystem, this edition will briefly summarize what Aurora is and how its relationship with NEAR operates. I will also link some resources at the bottom for anyone looking to expand their Aurora/NEAR knowledge base beyond the brief introduction – some extra rocket fuel!
Without further ado, let’s get started!
What is Aurora?
Aurora is an EVM-compatible L2 for the NEAR engine. The CEO of Aurora Labs, Alex Shevchenko, has described it as “the compatibility division of NEAR”. The NEAR infrastructure is written in Rust, not Solidity, and thus it is not compatible with the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). This means that for a project to launch on NEAR, they must write each line of code from scratch – no forking!
Aurora is the solution to NEAR’s accessibility obstacle. It is the second, EVM-compatible layer built on top of NEAR for projects to be able to easily expand to the NEAR ecosystem if so desired.
Why would protocols want to expand to Aurora/NEAR? NEAR is extremely fast and cheap. Sharding has already been implemented through their tech Nightshade, making NEAR’s Rust-built engine a very scalable, very impressive piece of technology. Aurora leverages NEAR’s scalability while providing a platform for EVM-compatible protocols to do the same.
For a more in-depth introduction to Aurora, check out this article written by the one-and-only HELPeR.
How Does It Work?
Every transaction performed on Aurora is in fact executed on the NEAR blockchain. As aforementioned, Aurora is EVM-compatible and the base token (what you pay for gas) on Aurora is ETH. When a user creates a transaction on Aurora, a message is sent to the NEAR engine for execution. What allows for execution is the Aurora-native RPC, which wraps the transaction into a NEAR-compatible version. The NEAR transaction returns a message to the Aurora smart contract, requiring execution of the transaction with a certain “payload”, the payload being an Ethereum transaction. The EVM is then spun up for the final execution. The base token paid by the user (ETH) is transferred from the user to Aurora’s RPC account.
If you don’t understand what I just said, don’t stress, it really isn’t of any consequence. But for those interested in the technicals, I encourage you to further explore such a fascinating piece of technology!
This Quarter in Aurora
Given that this is the first edition of Shooting for the Stars, I will retrace most of the past Quarter for Aurora, as there have been many exciting developments within the network. But first, let’s start with everyone’s favorite topic: network statistics!
Total Value Locked (TVL)
In the spirit of providing developers easy access to the NEAR engine, Aurora Labs aims to do the same for users with regard to the great engine of DeFi. In late May they launched Aurora+, a subscription service that offers users free transactions, ecosystem rewards, and governance decisions for subscribers. The goal of Aurora+ is to simplify DeFi for new users, to demystify the technicalities and complex networks; or, in their own words: “bridge the innovative world of Web 3.0, with the convenience and familiarity of Web 2.0.”
A free, basic Aurora+ account currently provides members with several benefits:
- 50 free transactions per month
- $AURORA staking to receive additional $AURORA, as well as rewards from ecosystem protocols and partners
- Recently launched governance participation through AuroraDAO (more below)
For the technically curious – free transactions can be achieved through the Aurora RPC accepting a gas fee of zero for the transaction! The cost of the initial 50 transactions is borne by the RPC account.
Moving forward, the Aurora Labs team will be implementing more features for Aurora+ subscribers to enjoy:
- Paid premium plans tailored to user’s needs (e.g more free transactions or transaction priority etc)
- Private transactions
- Optional single-point KYC for any dApps that so require
The way I see it, Aurora+ is Aurora Labs’ route towards increased adoption by way of decreased complexity.
Bastion Protocol (more on Bastion later) wrote a helpful Twitter thread regarding the features users can expect when signing up for Aurora+.
$VOTE Token Launch
Last month the Aurora team implemented a much-anticipated governance platform as part of the Aurora+ suite of services. Users can now receive governance rights for staking $AURORA in addition to the existing ecosystem rewards.
Governance power is measured and executed via the $VOTE token, which can be earned through staking $AURORA on Aurora+. The amount of $VOTE earned is directly proportional to the amount of $AURORA staked. The $VOTE earned can then be used to vote on AuroraDAO governance decisions – either directly or via third-party delegation.
Currently, the only decision for holders to vote on is for electing new DAO members, as $VOTE has only been live for a few weeks. As the voting platform expands and matures, users can expect a variety of governance decisions in the future, allowing $VOTE holders to become vital decision-makers for the Aurora ecosystem.
The full article on the $VOTE token release can be found here.
When a new project receives funding from early investors, those investors often receive equity in the company – a portion of the initial supply of tokens. Those tokens are often vested, or locked, for a period of time until the seed investors have access to them. Vesting terms vary, but in general, the unlock date is often a big concern for new investors, as a large chunk of the project’s tokens become available to sell, typically at much higher prices compared to when they were bought.
In Aurora’s case, team members receive compensation in two parts:
- A salary paid in USD
- An amount of $AURORA vested over 4 years
The vested $AURORA is an annual cliff. That means each year 25% of the vested tokens become unlocked on a particular date. Additionally, Aurora’s Token Generation Event (TGE), an initial token sale for early investors, has a one-year “delay of delivery” meaning that the initial investors’ tokens are vested for one year. The date of delivery is on November 18, 2022 – one year after their LGE. While many of the Aurora Labs’ staff have or will cross the year mark before this date, their portion of the vested tokens to be unlocked will not be available until then.
Essentially, a big chunk of $AURORA will be unlocked on November 18th of this year. This is of obvious concern to many current investors, as they are worried about the potential selloff that could occur once these tokens hit the market.
In mid-July of this year, Aurora launched Aurora Futures, known as AURORA_2211, as a way to mitigate the effects of a potentially large and sudden sell-off.
AURORA_2211 is a contract written on the Ethereum Mainnet that allows investors to access their locked tokens prior to the unlock date. The futures contract provides a liquid, tradeable, and fully transferable token, just like any other ERC-20, that represents locked $AURORA. When the unlock date is reached, the AURORA_2211 tokens can then be redeemed one-to-one for $AURORA. The goal is to cushion the impact of a great number of tokens flooding the market all at once, with the expectation that some locked $AURORA will have been made liquid prior to the unlock via the futures contract.
You can track the current circulating supply of AURORA_2211 on the futures website.
For more information about Aurora’s token distribution check out this article.
Trisolaris – H1 Report
Trisolaris is the first ever AMM to deploy on the Aurora network. Built upon Uniswap’s constant product invariant, they have taken advantage as the first-mover by establishing themselves within the ecosystem as the #1 DEX on NEAR’s EVM-compatible sibling.
After a wild first half of the year, the Trisolaris team released a 6-month report on what they have achieved thus far in 2022. Here are some of the highlights for those of you who only read TLDRs:
The Stable AMM: Problems and Solutions
In early April, Trisolaris released a stable AMM that granted users low-slippage, low-fee swaps for stable asset pairs. The stable AMM was built as a complement to the existing constant product AMM, to increase capital efficiency and offer traders better rates on stable pairs. The launch included a Smart Order Router that would automatically route trades towards the AMM with the deepest liquidity, eliminating the need for users to decide on which AMM to use.
Following the launch, the Trisolaris team announced the release of their 5pool stableswap, a base pool of five stablecoins to provide deep liquidity and low slippage between the tokens. The pool included: USN, UST, FRAX, USDT, and USDC.
Mere weeks after the launch of the 5pool, UST depegged, and the world of crypto was turned upside down. The Trisolaris team acted quickly, disabling the 5pool from their UI and eventually making the decision to discontinue the pool; no funds were lost in the process.
Following the discontinuation, the 5pool was replaced by two new base pools: one USDT-USDC pool and a 3pool consisting of USDT, USDC, and USN. Since then, the two stable pools have been performing as expected, minimizing slippage and contributing well to the new pTRI staking mechanism set in motion in June. What is pTRI, you ask?
xTRI to pTRI
The first iteration of single-sided $TRI staking was xTRI: where users could stake their $TRI and receive a portion of the protocol revenue in the form of more $TRI.
After months of monitoring, research, and community feedback surrounding the xTRI mechanism the team decided to revise their initial plans and restructure xTRI into something different: pTRI or “profit TRI”.
Instead of receiving additional $TRI for staking, pTRI holders (formerly xTRI holders) will receive stablecoins in the form of their 3pool LP tokens (USDT-USDC-USN).
When announcing the change, the team stated: “Many users do not want more TRI on top of their TRI and therefore sell the additional TRI they receive. Stablecoin rewards will remove the selling pressure this action generates.” Currently, users can earn ~19% in the form of 3pool tokens for staking their TRI. Note: there is a 1.5% deposit fee when staking TRI
Partnerships and Other News
- Trisolaris partnered with Synapse protocol to bring the first TRI-MetaPool. You can read about the partnership and Meta pools here.
- The team received their second DeFI grant from Proximity. Read more here.
- A funding round from Jump, Dragonfly Capital, Lemniscap, EtherealVC, and a few others was closed in April, read more here.
- TRI was listed on Aurigami and Bastion Protocol, two of the main lending protocols on Aurora, read about the Bastion listing and partnership here.
You can check out the full Trisolaris H1 report here.
For more Trisolaris information and updates, here are their Medium and Twitter pages.
Bastion Protocol is the leading lending market on the Aurora network. Accumulating over 600MM TVL at its peak, the protocol has established itself as the go-to for users looking to borrow and lend on Aurora. The protocol currently holds more than 50% of Aurora’s entire TVL.
In mid-June, Bastion released a status update on the second quarter of 2022. Here are the highlights from the last few months behind the Bastion.
A new UI feature was implemented to give users a more comprehensive picture of Bastion’s markets. The new dashboard includes live data about interest rate models, respective utilization rates, reserve factors, and more. Learn more here.
Bastion successfully completed an audit from Halborn – no major issues were found. The protocol is currently undergoing additional external audits from several other firms.
$BSTN emissions have been reduced significantly since inception, dropping emission rates by more than 50% in 3 months. Read more about their token launch and emission schedule here.
Bastion’s markets have remained extremely solvent over the course of the ongoing crypto winter. The protocol has diligently managed the amount of bad debt within their markets, mitigating insolvency levels quite successfully. They are at the top of the leaderboard when it comes to bad debt ratios compared to other major lending platforms.
Bad debt across lending markets can be tracked using Risk DAO’s Bad Debt Dashboard, for those interested in tracking the health of various lending protocols.
Bastion will be releasing a series of NFTs for their supporters moving forward and an airdrop of the first edition has already taken place for early supporters. What they are calling the ‘Trophy Case’ is a user-specific home for “Achievement NFTs” that represent a user’s engagement and dedication.
They have hinted at some utility being implemented in the future, but as of now, their Trophy Case is just a home for user Achievement NFTs as a symbol of Bastion loyalty. Learn more here.
In an effort to diversify its treasury, Bastion has exchanged 150MM $BSTN for 510k $AURORA. The swapped $BSTN will supplement the staking rewards on Aurora+ as part of the embedded ecosystem rewards initiative. Users can now earn $BSTN for staking on Aurora+.
You can read Bastion’s full Q2 Roundup report here for more details. Here are Bastion’s Medium and Twitter accounts as well.
Aurora Ecosystem Partnership Updates
The Aurora Labs biz dev team has been busy over the past few months, securing partnerships and facilitating the growth of their ecosystem.
Here are just a few of the partnerships and collaborations that have materialized during the months of July and August of this year:
- July 1: Zapper integrates with Aurora.
- July 4: Insurance protocol Solace launches on Aurora. More details here.
- July 6: Cross-chain stablecoin swapping platform Swim Protocol integrates with Aurora. More details here.
- July 12: Sustainable multi-chain DEX Greenhouse expands to Aurora. Visit their Aurora site here.
- July 21: Multi-chain bridge/interoperability protocol Wormhole integrates with Aurora. Details here.
- July 21: Fractional-algorithmic stablecoin protocol Atmos begins onboarding to Aurora.
- July 26: Casper-native multi-chain bridge and oracle network DotOracle expands to Aurora. Details here.
- July 29: Aurora-native protocols Arctic and Aurigami form a partnership. Details here.
- Aug. 1: Arctic forms another ecosystem partnership, this time with Trisolaris.
- Aug. 3. Aurora becomes a preloaded chain on the Brave Wallet.
- Aug. 9. Triple partnership forms between Axelar, Trisolaris, and Aurigami to build a new cross-chain DEX and cross-chain money market. Details here.
- Aug. 10: Multi-chain swapping platform Rubic integrates with the Aurora network.
- Aug. 14. Arctic forms yet another Aurora ecosystem partnership, this time with Synapse protocol.
- Aug. 16: Aurora network is added to the popular DEX aggregator 1inch.
- Aug. 17: Atmos partners with Flux Protocol. Details here.
- Aug. 18: Aurora integrates with the asset management dashboard DeFiYield.
The NEAR Ecosystem
Are you tired of reading about Aurora yet? You’re now free to exhale. This section will cover recent news and events on the NEAR network, the firstborn in the NEAR/Aurora lineage.
Total Value Locked (TVL)
|Addresses Created||Total (EOM)|
Conventions are kind of a big deal in crypto, at least for those who attend. I mean come on, who doesn’t love networking?? Jokes aside, conventions can be a great way to get up close and personal with your favorite builders, community leaders, and fellow cryptonauts. They can be exciting, mostly because live, in-person events are few and far between in an entirely digital industry.
NEAR hosts an annual convention called NEARCON, where NEAR founders and members gather to share ideas, innovations and advances within the NEAR ecosystem. This year the 4-day convention is being held in Lisbon, Portugal on September 11th. You can find more details and tickets here.
How much do you know about the NEAR stablecoin $USN? If you’re like me a couple of weeks ago, nothing… But fret not young stargazer, I shall walk you through a long story told short about a stablecoin, its history, and some proactive measures being taken by those behind the scenes.
USN Version 1
The story begins with Decentral Bank, a DAO responsible for developing and managing NEAR stablecoins. The first stablecoin to come out of Decentral Bank is $USN. USNv1 launched in late-April as a stablecoin soft-pegged to the US dollar. The goal behind the creation of $USN was, and still is, to bootstrap liquidity within the NEAR ecosystem and provide more utility to the $NEAR token.
At launch, users could mint $USN using $NEAR, or swap for $USN with $USDT using Ref Finance’s StableSwap (more on Ref Finance later). This meant that initially $USN was backed by both $NEAR and $USDT, held in what is called the Reserve Fund. The Decentral Bank DAO could vote to stake the $NEAR portion of the Fund to receive staking rewards, and then distribute those rewards to $USN holders via lending protocols on NEAR and Aurora.
$USN was always meant to be overcollateralized, and the Reserve Fund was automatically rebalanced in order for the Fund to be able to buy back the entire USN supply given some worst-case scenario.
USN Version 2.0
Now, unless you’ve been living under a proverbial rock, you know how bad the markets have been this year. If you don’t, well congratulations I wish I had your life. But I’ll tell you who definitely does know, the Decentral Bank DAO.
Given all that has happened this past quarter, especially with the UST debacle, the DAO has been reflecting on stablecoin systems and their relative weaknesses. In late Q2, after some aggressive stress tests, the $USN creators were concerned about the potential for $USN to become undercollateralized if volatility in the $NEAR price continued. They decided that a change was needed in order for their model to incorporate a level of market durability – a kind of flexibility that would hopefully make $USN impervious to a sustained bear market.
USN v2.0, initiated on June 30th, started with a 1:1 backing from only stable assets, USDT to be precise. This continues today, and it has been dubbed Phase I – users can only mint $USN with $USDT. Rewards will continue through $NEAR staking, using the $NEAR in the Reserve Fund from V1. Other “battle-tested” stablecoins are likely to be incorporated into the backing, including USDC and DAI.
Phase II is designed for when the bull market continues, the timing of which is voted on by the DAO. It is structured to incorporate “blue-chip” volatile assets, starting with $NEAR, in order to take advantage of rising prices and greater yields. More details are scheduled to be released in the upcoming V2.0 whitepaper. The team has stated, “The main focus of the mechanism for Phase II is to get close to a safe and healthy over-collateralization ratio and a minimum guaranteed collateral ratio in stablecoins such as $USDT, $USDC, and $DAI.”
If you want to read more about $USN and the V2.0 launch, click here for more details.
NEAR reaches out to Harmony community
The Harmony network and its community have suffered an extremely painful past couple of months. On June 23rd of this year, the Horizon bridge was exploited for approximately $100MM worth of ERC-20 tokens, and the effects have induced significant uncertainty amongst Harmony builders and users alike.
In response to Harmony’s recent misfortune, the NEAR foundation published an open invitation to Harmony developers, welcoming all those who are searching for a new home. The NEAR foundation, alongside Proximity Labs, put together a sizable relief fund dedicated to supporting those who wish to accept their invitation. You can read the full invitation letter here.
Remember how I mentioned Ref Finance a minute ago? Well, here we are and it’s time to answer all the questions you probably didn’t have! Ref Finance is by far the biggest, most integral protocol on the NEAR network. They currently host just shy of 80% of the network’s TVL, suffice to say that the concept of competition within the network is completely foreign to them.
Ref Finance released a quarterly report last month detailing– alright you know what a report is by now let’s just get into it…
To kick off the report, the Ref team gave an update on their current standing regarding their Q2 2022 roadmap. They were happy to announce that the last feature of their Q1 roadmap, a liquidity aggregation feature, was implemented in May.
The full 2022 roadmap, released in January, can be found here.
At the beginning of July, the team launched their new veToken model on Testnet, where it currently remains, to be tried and tested. This ve-model was not outlined in their initial 2022 roadmap but added after design completion in April, and is now highly anticipated among Ref Finance users (dubbed ‘Refinians’). The team has stated, “the veToken will be our flagship release in Q3.”
A full breakdown of what the new veToken model entails can be found here.
Recently the protocol went live on Immunifi, a bug bounty platform, in mid-May to secure a bounty program to incentivize upstanding hackers to find vulnerabilities. Ref also completed their first audit on June 2nd, as well as completing their first Process Quality Review with a score of 85%.
The team has multiple exciting updates planned for the rest of this year, which can be summarized here:
For more information and details regarding their ongoing and future plans, read the full Q2 report here.
If you want to stay informed or learn more about Ref Finance, check out their Medium and Twitter pages (and obviously their website, linked above).
Stader Near Exploit
Only a few days ago, as I was writing this newsletter, I thought to myself “wow, I’ve really covered everything! Nothing could possibly happen between now and me finishing that would need immediate coverage, I am amazing and everything will go according to plan!”
Well, literally one second after thinking that, the Stader Labs team on NEAR was exploited to the tune of 165k $NEAR. So what happened?
The exploit occurred due to a vulnerability in Stader’s $NearX contract, specifically concerning the minting of $NearX (staked NEAR through Stader). The attacker was able to take advantage of the vulnerability by minting ~20MM $NearX by transferring the token to him/herself in a cycle without any $NEAR staked against it.
The minted $NearX was used to swap $NearX for $NEAR using $NearX < > $NEAR pools on Ref Finance, thereby draining $NEAR liquidity from said pools. Once discovered, Stader paused all $NearX smart contracts to prevent further damage to be caused by the assailant.
It is estimated that the culprit walked away with around 165k $NEAR.
The Stader Near team has assured users that none of the staked NEAR on their dApp was affected, unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Ref Finance LPs involved in the targeted pools.
Stader has expressed their commitment to recouping the losses, while also providing the attacker an opportunity to return the funds by offering $150k USD in return.
You can read Stader’s full report on the exploit here for more details.
Well, that just about wraps up Shooting for the Stars edition #1! Thank you for reading and I look forward to continuing on this journey with you all, to infinity and beyond!
As promised, here are a few extra resources for those of you keen to stay tuned into Aurora’s ecosystem, or anyone who wants to learn more.
NEAR/Aurora Videos and Podcasts
Ready Layer One podcast episode with Alex Shevchenko talking about Aurora.
Twitter thread from CEO Alex Shevchenko about L2s, bridges, and Aurora architecture.
Twitter thread from Shevchenko on Aurora+ and its functionality
NEAR response to Tornado Cash sanction.
Zerion’s deep dive into Aurora.
YouTube video on Aurora+ release.
Rainbow Bridge celebrates one-year anniversary.
AMA with CEO Alex Shevchenko about transaction fees on Aurora.
Twitter space with Alex Shevchenko and the BAT community.
Twitter space about NEARCON 2022
Blog (weekly newsletter signup)
YouTube Channel (weekly video updates)
Feel free to shoot me a message on Twitter if you have any questions or if you feel like I’ve missed something important! Feedback is always appreciated 🙂