June 11, 2017
Asgardia, Proposed First Independent Space Nation, To Launch 'Off-Planet' Data Storage Satellite

The team behind the project to set up Asgardia, the world's first independent space-based nation, has taken a step toward fulfilling the ambitious goal after plans for the project were first announced last year. The proposed first independent space nation, which hopes to have a legal and constitutional system of its own, is set to launch an "off-planet" data storage satellite in September of 2017.

The project is backed by the Russian billionaire and scientist Dr. Igor Ashurbeyli, and an international team of scientists.

Ahead of the official unveiling of its satellite mission at a press conference scheduled to hold on June 13 in Hong Kong, managers of the Asgardia project have reportedly filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to send a data storage nanosatellite into space later in September 2017, GeekWire reported.

The CubeSat-style nanosatellite, Asgardia-1, about the size of a loaf of bread -- four by four by eight inches, and weighing about five pounds -- will be launched to space to the International Space Station (ISS) on an Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply craft. About 90 days after the robotic cargo spacecraft docks with the ISS, it will detach and launch to about 300-mile (500-kilometer) low Earth orbit, where it will deploy Asgardia-1.

"The event will mark a new era in the Space Age, 60 years after the first ever artificial space satellite, Sputnik 1, orbited Earth."
The primary payload of Asgardia-1 will be a 512GB solid state drive preloaded with data, which will be updated once in orbit, according to FCC filing.

The nanosatellite will also be equipped with particle detectors to "map the solar flux, and determine the radiation dosing that the internal electronics are receiving." The overall purpose of the mission will be to "demonstrate long term storage of data in low earth orbit." However, the satellite will remain in low Earth orbit for only about five years before it reenters Earth's atmosphere and burns up.

The nature of the data has not been disclosed. However, legal experts have noted the special significance of the fact that the data storage will orbit Earth far beyond the effective reach of Earth-based laws and regulations.

"If Asgardia can find a launching country that is not a signatory to the space treaties, there are no international law obligations," Mark Sundahl, a legal expert at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, told Motherboard.

Legal experts say that Asgardia's data storage satellite could start a new trend in which data are stored in space outside the reach of laws operated by the Earth's nations. The situation, which could be exploited by digital pirates, challenges countries to extend existing laws to deal with new legal situations that arise when more private citizens begin colonizing space.

"At that point, it's the Wild West."
"Ultimately people will get married in space, have babies in space, and murder each other in space," said Steven Freeland, international law expert at Western Sydney University, according to Futurism.

Asgardia is named after the sky city of the gods in Norse mythology. It will be established as a permanent space station and as a nation with a legal and constitutional system of its own, a flag and other symbols signifying its independent nationhood.

The managers of the project began registering people to participate in the crowdfunded project last October. They promised at the time that the first 100,000 people to register would be granted virtual citizenship of Asgardia.

More than half-a-million people have signed up for virtual citizenship of Asgardia.

The design for a national flag and an insignia for the proposed space nation is being crowd-sourced. The crowd-sourced project to design symbols and compose a national anthem for the new nation will reportedly be completed by June 18, according to Futurism. A draft constitution for the nation is being drawn up. Plans for a national currency and a 13-month calendar with an extra month called Asagard, are also being considered.

"We must leave [Earth] because it's very much in the nature of humanity," founding member Ram Jakhu, the director of McGill University's Institute of Air and Space Law, said.

"Humanity left Africa and covered the whole globe. The resources of Earth will be depleted. [W]e have a wish to go where nobody has gone before."
There are many potential roles that the nation of Asgardia could play in space, according to experts. The nation could help to protect Earth from asteroids, comets, and other threatening space debris. Asgardia could help to run asteroid mining missions.

Professor David Alexander, the director of the Rice University's Space Institute, also explained that the project aims to "create opportunities for broader access to space, enabling non-traditional space nations to realize their scientific aspirations."

"The project's concept comprises three parts -- philosophical, legal and scientific/technological," explained Dr Ashurbeyli at the time he was launching the Asgardia project last year. "Asgardia is a fully-fledged and independent nation, and a future member of the United Nations - with all the attributes this status entails."

"The essence of Asgardia is Peace in Space, and the prevention of Earth's conflicts being transferred into space."
"Asgardia is also unique from a philosophical aspect – to serve entire humanity and each and everyone, regardless of his or her personal welfare and the prosperity of the country where they happened to be born," he continued. "The scientific and technological component of the project can be explained in just three words – peace, access and protection."

[Featured Image by Fred Mantel/Shutterstock]