Asgardia, the little space nation that could, placed a tiny satellite into low Earth orbit on Thursday. This makes it the first independent “nation” to have 100 percent of its territory in space.
The Space Kingdom of Asgardia isn’t technically a nation yet—it’s a non-profit non-governmental organization based out of Vienna, Austria and bankrolled by Russian billionaire Igor Ashurbeyli. But if you’re trying to start a whole space nation from scratch, you have to start somewhere.
Asgardia-1, a CubeSat, took off from NASA’s Wallops Island flight facility in Virginia on November 12. It rode an OA-08 rocket, as part of the OA-8 Antares-Cygnus commercial resupply mission to the ISS.
The satellite has a 0.5 terabyte capacity for data storage, and contains the Constitution of Asgardia—a document outlining the core tenets of the space nation—as well as images and text files submitted by citizens (people who “applied” to become Asgardians and accepted the constitution), which are publicly available to browse through. This database is part of an effort begun last year to digitize and store “the wealth of human knowledge in space” (and ended up breaking a few earthly laws, as Asgardians uploaded copyrighted material).
“This step is important for Asgardia because it marks the first time in history that a nation’s entire independent territory is in space,” a spokesperson for Asgardia told me in an email. “It is indeed a first step, but significant in the sense that it brings all of Asgardia’s citizens to space in a virtual form for now.” Asgardia currently has more than 154,000 “citizens,” or people who have applied for entry and accepted the constitution.
It’s a good chunk of data spinning around in orbit, but it’s no Voyager Golden Record. As of launch, that wealth of human knowledge turned out to be mostly a collection of selfies, a few nerdy memes, and this:
Seems about right.
But the text and images stored in Asgardia-1 aren’t just symbolic of the lives of Asgardians: For NASA, it’s an experiment that will help scientists understand how data holds up over long periods of time. For the next two years, the satellite will undergo radiation exposure tests that measures data degradation. The results will be used to inform long-term space missions.
In about four years, Asgardia-1 will de-orbit on its own. You can track the satellite's whereabouts over Earth in real-time, here.
The spokesperson told me that Asgardia plans to launch more satellites in the near future, with the goal of eventually building a “network” in space, including habitable platforms. “But it all will have started with this first small presence in space.”