Asgardia is the brainchild of Russian scientist Dr Igor Ashurbeyli, who announced the project in late 2016. So, just a year later Asgardia kind of exists. Asgardia is free to join, and so far more than 100,000 people have done so. The satellite itself is a 2U cubesat, which is about the size of a loaf of bread. Not the most auspicious of beginnings for the first space nation, but every kingdom has to start someplace. The citizens of Asgardia contributed data to the satellite, which is carrying a 500GB solid-state drive filled with photos and documents.
The Asgardia-1 satellite was delivered to the International Space Station aboard an Orbital ATK Cygnus supply ship. This was only one of several satellites delivered by the remote vehicle, but none of the others are intended to be their own sovereign nations. After being unloaded, the crew ejected the cubesats into space via the Japanese lab module’s airlock.
Ashurbeyli has spoken at length about his vision for Asgardia, and it’s certainly a grand one. He sees the space nation eventually growing to consist of multiple satellites and enclosed environments that can host Asgardian citizens. The goals of Asgardia include improving access to technology, scientific discovery, and protecting Earth from asteroids and other space threats. For what it’s worth, he appears to be genuine in his desire to build a technological utopia in space. As for making Asgardia a legal entity, that’s still pretty far off.
To be recognized as a country at the UN, Asgardia has to get approval from the UN security council. Then, the full General Assembly must approve its admittance by a two-thirds majority. Traditionally, a nation is only recognized as such when it has a permanent population, a government, and the ability to interact with other nations. Asgardia doesn’t have that right now—Asgardian citizens still live on Earth, and there’s no functioning government to represent it.
Maybe in a few years, we’ll look back on this tiny satellite as the start of something. Maybe Asgardia will become a thriving space nation dedicated to science and exploration, or maybe it’ll just be a place where the space mafia launders its space bucks.