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Space nation Asgardia ready to launch itself into orbit

Asgardia, a virtual nation online, wants to load all its data on a small satellite and launch it to a permanent home in orbit around the Earth.

Asgardia, the self-styled "first nation in space" that so far exists more online and in the minds of its creators than in any physical place, may soon have its first bit of actual territory.  

asgardia-1-rendering

A rendering of Asgardia-1.

Asgardia/maitland

On Tuesday, Asgardia's leader and current one-man government, the Russian nanoscientist Igor Ashurbeyli, announced plans to launch the small satellite Asgardia-1 later this year. The satellite and the information it carries -- including Asgardia's constitution and flag and data stored for free by up to 1.5 million "Asgardians" -- will comprise the totality of the nation. 

This is, essentially, a legal, technological and philosophical experiment that declares an orbiting server to be a sovereign country. 

"Asgardia-1 will mark the beginning of a new space era, taking our citizens into space in virtual form, at first," Ashurbeyli said in a statement. "It will be our foundation stone, from which we will look to create a network of satellites that will help protect our planet against asteroids, solar flares, man-made space debris and other space hazards."

Plans for "Asgardia," named for the city in the skies ruled by Norse god Odin, were unveiled last year, with a stated goal of fostering world peace and protecting Earth from rogue asteroids and space debris.

Becoming a "citizen" of Asgardia requires little more than filling out a few online forms to get your own ID number and be added to the database. There is the odd bit along the way in which you must check a box consenting to the fact that you are joining a nation that is technically a dictatorship at the moment. 

"By checking this box I authorize Igor Ashurbeyli, the Founding Father of Asgardia, to negotiate any matters pertaining to Asgardia Space Nation as Head of Nation.*" reads the text next to a check box under the header "Head of Nation Mandate." Yes, the asterisk means checking the box is required if you want your Asgardian identification number. 

But Asgardia's leaders says this is soon to change and that a constitution has been in development over the past six months. Registered Asgardians, of which there are currently nearly 200,000, will be able to vote to approve the foundational document of the nation on June 18. Asgardia-1 is set to launch with the help of cubesat company Nanoracks sometime in the Northern Hemisphere's autumn of 2017.

During a press conference from Hong Kong on Tuesday, Ashurbeyli also announced that a company, Asgardia AG, has been registered to pursue ventures supporting the nation and its mission, and that Asgardians can buy shares in it.

Ashurbeyli has said he hopes Asgardia can become a full-fledged nation, acknowledged by the other governments of the world and the United Nations, but that seems unlikely unless it meets the generally accepted definition of a nation that typically requires things like physical territory and living, physical citizens. 

Asgardia-1 brings the conceptual country one step closer to that goal, but likely still more in the realm of a virtual nation than a real one.

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