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'Asgardia' to become the first new Space Nation

Posted 13 October 2016 · Add Comment

Plans have been announced to create the first new Space Nation to be called 'Asgardia'.

The first Asgardia satellite is planned to be launched in Autumn 2017, sixty years after the first ever satellite launch, and will mark a new era in the Space Age as the satellite will be independent of any current nation state on Earth: the satellite will comprise the nation itself, creating its own legal framework, flag and other symbols of nationhood. 

The name derives from Norse mythology as the city of the skies ruled by Odin from Valhalla. 

The project team is being led by Dr Igor Ashurbeyli, one of the Russian Federation's most distinguished scientists and founder of the Aerospace International Research Center (AIRC) in Vienna. In a separate event in Paris yesterday [11 October 2016] he became chairman of UNESCO’s ‘Science of Space’ committee. Dr Ashurbeyli has consulted a group of globally renowned scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and legal experts on the development of the concept.  

Dr Ashburbeyli said: “The project's concept comprises three parts – philosophical, legal and scientific/technological. 

“Asgardia is a fully-fledged and independent nation, and a future member of the United Nations - with all the attributes this status entails. 

“The essence of Asgardia is Peace in Space, and the prevention of Earth’s conflicts being transferred into space. 

“Asgardia is also unique from a philosophical aspect – to serve entire humanity and each and everyone, regardless of his or her personal welfare and the prosperity of the country where they happened to be born. 

“The scientific and technological component of the project can be explained in just three words – peace, access and protection. 

“The scientific and technological envelope of Asgardia is a space arena for the scientific creativity of its citizens and companies in developing a broad range of future space technologies, products and services for humanity on Earth and humanity in Space.” 

The launch of the first Asgardia satellite is planned for 2017, with the project developing from there. Access to space is opening up, but the process remains slow and is tightly controlled by states on earth, restricting commerce and scientific developments in space by private enterprise. Of the 196 nation states on Earth, just thirteen (USSR, USA, France, Japan, China, UK, India, Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Iran, South Korea and North Korea) and one regional organisation (the European Space Agency, ESA) have independently launched satellites on their own indigenously developed launch vehicles.  

Professor David Alexander, Director of the Rice Space Institute at Rice University, Houston, Texas said: “As low-earth orbit becomes more accessible, what’s often called the “democratisation” of space, a pathway is opening up to new ideas and approaches from a rich diversity of participants. The mission of Asgardia to create opportunities for broader access to space, enabling non-traditional space nations to realise their scientific aspirations is exciting.” 

Under current international space law, including the widely adopted ‘Outer Space Treaty’, states are required to authorise and supervise national space activities, including the activities of commercial and not-for-profit organisations. Objects launched into space are subject to their nation of belonging and if a nation launches an object into space, that nation is responsible for any damage that occurs internationally and in outer space. 

The project is creating a new framework for ownership and nationhood in space, which will adapt current outer space laws governing responsibility, private ownership and enterprise so they are fit for purpose in the new era of space exploration. By creating a new Space Nation, private enterprise, innovation and the further development of space technology to support humanity will flourish free from the tight restrictions of state control that currently exist. 

Professor Ram Jakhu, Director, Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University, Montreal, Canada said: “An appropriate and unique global space legal regime is indispensable for governing outer space in order to ensure it is explored on a sustainable basis for exclusively peaceful purposes and to the benefit of all humanity, including future generations living on planet earth and in outer space. The development of foundational principles of such a legal regime ought to take place at the same time as technological progress is being made.” 

One of the early developments planned by the Asgardia team will be the creation of a state-of-the-art protective shield for all humankind from cosmic manmade and natural threats to life on earth such as space debris, coronal mass ejections and asteroid collisions.  

There are estimated to be more than 20,000 traceable objects of man-made space debris (MSD) including non-active spacecraft, upper-stage rockets and final stage vehicles as well as fragments of craft that potentially pose a dangerous situation in near-Earth orbits. The impact of the Chelyabinsk meteorite which crashed over a major Russian town as recently as 2013, injuring 1100 people and damaging 4000 buildings, is a reminder of the threat that natural objects pose to life on the planet.  

Whilst steps have already been taken by the UN (through the International Asteroid Warning Network - IAWN) and the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) to identify potentially hazardous scenarios, Asgardia will build on these developments to help offer a more comprehensive mechanism.  

The Asgardia Project Team will comprise a collaborative, multi-disciplinary effort from leading experts around the globe which it is envisaged will grow over time as the project evolves. But as well as expert involvement in the project, Asgardia is looking to capture the wider public imagination by crowd-sourcing key aspects of the project including involving members of the public in competitions to help design the nation’s flag, insignia and other symbols of nationhood.

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