Asgardia, the crowdfunding venture that aims to create an independent nation in outer space, is due to reveal details of its first satellite mission next week – and Motherboard reports that the mission could set the stage for creating a data haven in orbit.
Asgardia is due to delve into the details during a Hong Kong news conference on June 13, but an application filed with the Federal Communications Commission says the Asgardia-1 nanosatellite will be delivered to the International Space Station aboard an Orbital ATK Cygnus resupply flight, currently scheduled for September. The CubeSat-style spacecraft will measure 4 by 4 by 8 inches, or roughly the size of a loaf of bread, and weigh about 5 pounds.
About 90 days after its space station arrival, the robotic Cygnus would unhook from the space station, boost itself into a 300-mile (500-kilometer) orbit and deploy Asgardia-1 into orbit under an arrangement worked out through Houston-based NanoRacks. Such a deployment procedure was used for the first time last November to put four Earth-monitoring satellites in orbit for Spire Global.
The FCC application says Asgardia-1 will be in contact with Earth via the Globalstar satellite telecom constellation, and demonstrate long-term data storage in low Earth orbit.
“The primary payload is a solid state device hard drive,” Asgardia says in the application. “The drive is loaded on the ground with data, and the data is updated once on orbit. A file is returned that verifies successful data transmission.”
The satellite will also have two particle detectors, mounted externally and internally. “From this data we can map the solar flux, and determine the radiation dosing that the internal electronics are receiving,” the application says. Asgardia expects to operate the satellite for about five years. Atmospheric drag will cause the satellite’s orbit to decay, and eventually it will burn up during atmospheric re-entry.
The FCC application doesn’t discuss the long-term goal of the data storage experiment, but Motherboard said such capability could open the door to off-planet data and tax havens, free from regulation by existing governments. That strategy depends on how successfully Asgardia makes the case that it’s an independent nation and not subject to regulation by the U.S. or other countries.
The fact that Asgardia needs the FCC to approve its satellite experiment hints at the challenges ahead.
In the nearly seven months since Russian scientist-businessman Igor Ashurbeyli unveiled his plan for Asgardia, more than half a million Internet users have signed up for virtual citizenship. Ashurbeyli said he was providing the funds to start the independence campaign and get the satellite project off the ground, but he also said he would rely on donors, crowdfunding arrangements, investors and partners.