Asgardia (nation)

Micronation
Motto: One Humanity, One Unity
Status Current
Government
• Head of Nation
Igor Ashurbeyli
Establishment
• Declaration of creation
12 October 2016
Membership ~107,800[1]
Purported currency SOLAR
ISO 3166 code [[ISO 3166-2:|]]

Asgardia, officially known as the Space Kingdom of Asgardia, is a proposal for a nation that intends to access outer space free of the control of existing nations, and to be recognised as a nation state. Igor Ashurbeyli, the founder of the Aerospace International Research Center, anounced the proposal on 12 October 2016.

History

Igor Ashurbeyli, Head of Nation of the Space Kingdom of Asgardia

Announced on 12 October 2016,[2][3][4] the ultimate aim of the project is to create a new nation that allows access to outer space free of the control of existing nations. The current space law framework, the Outer Space Treaty requires governments to authorise and supervise all space activities, including the activities of non-governmental entities such as commercial and non-profit organizations; by attempting to create a nation, those behind Asgardia hope to avoid the tight restrictions that the current system imposes.[2][5] "Asgardia" was chosen as a reference to one of the nine worlds of Norse mythology; that which was inhabited by the gods.[5][6]

People were invited to register for citizenship, with the aim of Asgardia then applying to the United Nations for recognition as a nation state.[6][7] In less than 2 days, there were over 100,000 applications;[4][8] within 3 weeks, there were 500,000.[8] After tougher verification requirements were introduced, this reduced, and stood at around 210,000 in June 2017.[8][9] There is no intention to actually move these members into space.[6][7] Asgardia intends to apply for membership of the UN in 2018.[8][9]

Backed by a number of international space experts,[3] the project was initiated by Russian scientist and businessman, Igor Ashurbeyli, founder of the Aerospace International Research Center. [6][5] As part of the application process, members were required to confirm him as "Head of Nation";[10] Ashurbeyli expects to move to a democratic system during 2017.[8] It officially calls itself the "Space Kingdom of Asgardia".[11]

Space activity

A CubeSat. At 10x10x10cm, this one is half the size of the Asgardia-1

Asgardia intends to launch a series of satellites into orbit, and has announced that the first will be delivered to space by Orbital ATK in September 2017 as part of an International Space Station resupply mission.[8][9] It will be a CubeSat measuring 10x10x20cm at a weight of 2.8kg,[9] will be manufactured and deployed into orbit by NanoRacks,[12] and has been named Asgardia-1.[10] The nanosatellite will be a file storage device pre-loaded with things like family photos supplied by the first 1,500,000 members,[8][12] with subsequent data being uploaded or downloaded using the Globalstar satellite network.[13] That it is being boosted to space and then deployed by US companies on a NASA-funded mission means that the satellite will fall under US jurisdiction.[12] Asgardia intends to partner with a non-signatory to the Outer Space Treaty (OST), perhaps an African state such as Ethiopia or Kenya, in the hopes of circumventing the OST's restriction on nation-states claiming territory in outer space.[14] The satellite is expected to have a lifetime of 5 years before its orbit decays and it burns up on reentry.[13]

Often described as a billionaire,[8][15] Ashurbeyli has said that he is currently solely responsible for funding Asgardia,[8][9] and that members will not be funding the planned first satellite launch.[14] Although the cost has not been made publicly available, NanoRacks have said that similar projects cost $700,000.[15] The project intends to move to crowdfunding to finance itself.[14][16] Sa'id Mosteshar, of the London Institute of Space Policy and Law, says this suggests that Asgardia lacks a credible business plan.[16] A company, Asgardia AG, has been incorporated, and members can buy shares in it.[10]

Eventually, Asgardia hopes to have a colony in orbit. This will be expensive: the International Space Station cost $100bn to build, and flights to it cost over $40m per launch. Asgardia has been compared to the troubled Mars One project, which aims to establish a permanent colony on Mars. Asgardia’s organisers point out that setting up a small nation in orbit will be a lot easier than colonising distant Mars.[12] Other proposed goals for the future include shielding the Earth from asteroids and coronal mass ejections,[3][9] and a Moon base.[17]

Legal status

Historical

There has been at least one previous attempt to set up an independent nation in space. The Nation of Celestial Space, also known as Celestia, was formed in 1949 by James Mangan and claimed all of space. He banned atmospheric nuclear testing and issued protests to the major powers at their encroachment on his territory, but was ignored by both the powers and the UN. However, modern communications mean that Asgardia has a better ability to organise and fund, and a satellite will give it a physical presence in space.[7]

Recognition and territorial claims

Ram Jakhu, the director of McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law, and Asgardia's legal expert, believes that Asgardia will be able to fulfill three of the four elements that the UN requires when considering if an entity is a state: citizens; a government; and territory, being an inhabited spacecraft. In that situation, Jakhu considers that fulfulling the fourth element, gaining recognition by the UN member states, will be achievable, and Asgardia will then be able to apply for UN membership.[14] The Security Council would then have to approve the application, as well as two-thirds of the members of the General Assembly.[8]

Existing international law prohibits national sovereignty claims of celestial bodies in space, however, the Outer Space Treaty Article VIII notes that the State that launches a space object retains jurisdiction and control over that object.[18] According to Sa'id Mosteshar, of the London Institute of Space Policy and Law: "The Outer Space Treaty… accepted by everybody says very clearly that no part of outer space can be appropriated by any state." Without self-governing territory in space where citizens are present, Mosteshar suggested that the prospect any country would recognise Asgardia was slim.[16]

Joanne Gabrynowicz, an expert in space law and a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology's School of Law,[8] believes that Asgardia will have trouble attaining recognition as a nation. She says there are a "number of entities on Earth whose status as an independent nation have been a matter of dispute for a long time. It is reasonable to expect that the status an unpopulated object that is not on Earth will be disputed."[7]

Christopher Newman, an expert in space law at the UK’s University of Sunderland, highlights that Asgardia is trying to achieve a "complete re-visitation of the current space-law framework," anticipating that the project will face significant obstacles with getting UN recognition and dealing with liability issues.[6] The Outer Space Treaty requires the country that sends a mission into space to be responsible for the mission, including any damage it might cause.[7]

Data security

As Asgardia is involved in the storing of private data, there could be legal and ethical issues.[13] For the moment, as the Asgardian satellite is being deployed to orbit by US companies, it will fall under US jurisdiction and data stored on the satellite will be subject to US privacy laws.[12][9][17]

References

  1. ^ "Asgardia". Asgardia. 14 August 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "Space oddity: Group claims to have created nation in space". ScienceInsider. 12 October 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c "A multinational group wants you to join 'Asgardia' -- the first outer space nation with a mission to defend Earth". Business Insider. 12 October 2016. 
  4. ^ a b "Virtual nation Asgardia will launch itself into space". Yahoo News. 14 June 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c "Scientists propose space nation named 'Asgardia' and cosmic shield to protect Earth from asteroids". The Telegraph. 12 October 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Will you become a citizen of Asgardia, the first nation state in space?". The Guardian. 12 October 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "'Asgardia,' the first nation in space, wants you!". CNET News. 12 October 2016. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Asgardia: the world's first space nation". CNN. 20 June 2017. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "Aspiring Space-Based Nation to Start with Baby Steps". NBC News. 19 June 2017. 
  10. ^ a b c "Space nation Asgardia ready to launch itself into orbit". CNET News. 13 June 2017. 
  11. ^ "CONSTITUTION OF THE SPACE KINGDOM OF ASGARDIA". Asgardia. 
  12. ^ a b c d e "The 'space nation' Asgardia will attempt its first launch this summer -- with help from a Russian billionaire". Business Insider. 14 June 2017. 
  13. ^ a b c "The First Space-Based 'Nation' Wants to Store Data Off-Planet, Beyond the Law". Motherboard. 7 June 2017. 
  14. ^ a b c d "Asgardia, Proposed Space-Based Nation Accepting Citizenship Applications". Space.com. 14 October 2016. 
  15. ^ a b "Russian billionaire in Hong Kong touts world's first space nation Asgardia". South China Morning Post. 13 June 2017. 
  16. ^ a b c "Scientists plan to create 'Asgardia' nation state in space". BBC News. 13 October 2016. 
  17. ^ a b "Far-Out Nation: Hopeful Space-Based Country Asgardia to Launch Satellite". Space.com. 16 June 2017. 
  18. ^ Wikisource:Outer Space Treaty of 1967#Article VIII