Asgardia wants to be the world’s first independent space nation. In its first step towards this lofty goal, it has just launched its first satellite into low-Earth orbit, the shoebox-sized Asgardia-1.
The satellite was launched on Sunday morning onboard an Orbital ATK Antares rocket. This was Orbital ATK’s eighth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to deliver goods to the International Space Station (video of the launch below).
Asgardia’s satellite is a small box that holds 0.5 terabytes of data, containing the nation’s Constitution, national symbols, and “personally selected data of the Asgardian citizenship.” Most of this data is in the form of images and text files – a strange mix of selfies, photos of cats, and poems – from the thousands of people who registered to join Asgardia. You can view all the files that people sent up right here.
“Asgardia-1 may look like many other satellites orbiting Earth, but it is the only one in the whole world which represents a new territory. Asgardia-1 took all of the nation’s essence to space: its Constitution, its national symbols, and all of the Asgardian citizens – virtually,” Igor Ashurbeyli, a Russian-Azerbaijani scientist and Asgardia’s “Head of Nation,” said in an emailed statement.
“Exactly 13 months after its founding, Asgardia is now in space – as promised. I believe that Asgardia-1 is the first step towards unifying humanity.”
So, at the moment the nation of Asgardia is little more than a memory stick in orbit. However, Ashurbeyli is deadly serious about making his dream of Asgardia being the first independent space nation a reality.
At this time, no country on Earth recognizes its legitimacy as a nation. So, Ashurbeyli is heading to Washington DC to meet with policy experts to discuss the next steps Asgardia needs to take to gain official status as a nation. There are also parliamentary elections for Asgardian citizens currently underway.
“My hope is that the parliament will be made up of people from all different backgrounds across the world. Together, they will be the engine that drives Asgardia forward into the next space age,” added Dr Ram Jakhu, an expert in space law at McGill University.
What does this all really mean though? Well, in the long-run, they want to start a nation whose physical territory exists totally off Earth's surface, namely in the form of a space station in Earth orbit that looks like its straight out of an old sci-fi comic. The satellite that’s just been launched is essentially a very small stepping stone to this end goal.
Not everyone is convinced, however. In October 2016, Popular Science wrote: “it is rather difficult to say whether Asgardia is a sincere effort with poor execution, a marketing scheme, or an absurd joke.”
Until now, Asgardia's work has seemed like a pipedream or perhaps a daring experimentation in space law. Even though its first satellite is now in orbit, we're still a long way from Asgardia having a seat at the UN.