Asgardia: What the founding of space nations means for us Earthlings

250,000 Citizens of Space

Asgardia is the world’s first society to be located entirely off-world: despite the impressive concept art that one encounters on the recently created (2016) startup society’s website, its properties in low-earth orbit currently consist of a single breadbox-sized satellite – ASGARDIA-1.

"Cloud storage" isn't quite right - Asgardia's data is in the stars.

This is by no means to detract from the success that is launching a civilian satellite, and successfully having it communicate as a data storage provider with the surface. Yes, Asgardian citizens can in fact upload their data to ASGARDIA-1. Currently present on the drive are Asgardia’s founding principles, constitution, anthem and similar basic information. Asgardian citizens have between 100 and 200 kilobytes of real estate on the low-orbit data center.

The plan is to have subsequent modules receive ASGARDIA-1 and dock with it, and expand the infrastructure of the spacebound startup society. Asgardia currently boasts just over 250,000 citizens, and more than 3 times that in followers on social media. There is certainly an interest in expanding humanity beyond the blue marble.

Currently, Asgardia has no permanent population in space, which is an element necessary for sovereignty, which they plan to claim. To learn more about this, we’ll have to turn to…

International Law…IN SPACE!

One of the ideas espoused by the creators of Asgardia is the fact that the current legal models for space law are based in international law and geopolitics, as opposed to universal law and space politics, and that technology has advanced to such a measure that the former of the two is now obsolete. This is a fair criticism, as we will analyze below.

Asgardia mentions that the Outer Space Treaty was issued in 1967, but at the moment, approximately 20 countries with direct access to space programs are taking uncoordinated steps toward creating space law. There is a risk of the space domain becoming the Wild West. That is why one of Asgardia’s goals is to set forth the legislation that aims to make the use of outer space peaceful, protective, and open to all human beings – admittedly, something that the OST pays lip service to, but does not narrowly define or specify.

The Space Treaty was signed in 1967, and serves as the skeleton for further space law developments.

Asgardia’s citizens have not (as of November 1st, 2018) yet accepted the constitution of Asgardia, and thus no specific laws have yet been adopted. Their leadership claims to be in contact with various legal experts with a specialization in outer space law, but as of yet no drafts have been brought forward.

Reputable universities have begun organizing space law curricula, as the demand is growing. Scholars and professionals alike have begun writing about space law, and these sources may serve to assist Asgardia in their legislative efforts. Fundamentally, the space law problem is one that Ulex solves: that of disparate legal systems attempting to legislate that which is common to all humans.

Asgardia’s attempts at legal sovereignty will be based on Israel’s process of entering the UN.

Asgardia is currently not recognized as a nation by any member of the UN, but their strategy is that which won Israel its recognition: winning recognition from key players that will influence others to do the same in a domino-style system. Asgardia’s first elections have not yet concluded, but as soon as that happens, the uphill battle for recognition may begin. Speaking of elections…

A governance model for spacefarers

The most important question that governance entrepreneurs ask themselves: is the government of Asgardia offering a good service to its citizens?

The Government is an Asgardia’s supreme national executive body. It is a collective body that comprises the Chairman of the Government, her deputies, and ministers. The Government comprises 12 ministries corresponding to the permanent parliamentary committees.

The Chairman of the Government is appointed by the Parliament on the proposal of the Supreme Space Council in agreement with the Head of Nation. The Government will issue resolutions and other laws within its jurisdiction, in accordance with and for the performance of the Constitution, Asgardian Laws, Head of Nation decrees, Supreme Space Council resolutions, and international treaties.

Igor Ashurbeyli is the Head of Nation for Asgardia, a 5-year position.

The strange thing about Asgardia is the fact that it plans to be a truly independent nation pursuant to the principles of democracy and separation of powers, rather than attempt a more experimental governance system. We can only wait and see how the governance model will play out, and what laws will get passed in this new nation.

Why should we care?

Asgardia puts forward a precedent: not for persons living in space (the ISS overtook them by many years) and not for private satellite launching (Telstar-1 was launched in 1962). What for, then?

Asgardia’s primary accomplishments will be in the field of space law: the creation of a legal system for the largest commons in existence is no small task. Currently, several national governments have their own space legislation, and few concrete specifications exist in the agreements that those nations are bound by.

The standardization of space law will be brought forward by the driven people behind Asgardia. We don’t believe technological, government, or economic innovation will be what puts Asgardia in the history books – but rather the paving of a road for further space exploration and precedents that will be usable in similar commons such as the international seabed, underground, or high seas.

Too long, didn’t read

Asgardia is a primarily online new startup society with over 250,000 persons registered as citizens.

ASGARDIA-1 is a data storage satellite uplink in low-earth orbit, serving as the base for the fledgling startup society.

Asgardia’s government is similar to that of the Netherlands or Sweden: a monarchy with democratic government.

The most important thing Asgardia will achieve, in this author’s opinion, is the fact that their legal precedents for territorial commons will compound the creation of new startup societies.

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