An Orbital ATK Antares rocket launches a Cygnus spacecraft that is carrying supplies to the International Space Station as well as Asgardia-1, a satellite of the “space kingdom” Asgardia, whose founder wants it to become Earth’s first recognized space nation. NASA/Bill Ingalls

A satellite that docked with the International Space Station this week was the first one sent into orbit by Asgardia, a group that its founder refers to as a “space kingdom.”

Asgardia-1 contained half a terabyte of data, including the space nation’s constitution, other national documents and messages from its “citizens,” when it hurtled into space aboard an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft and Antares rocket on Sunday. The ship docked yesterday and is expected to release the CubeSat “into its own independent [low-Earth] orbit” later on, according to the space kingdom’s website. “Activation of Asgardia-1’s on-board systems for autonomous operation is scheduled for mid-December 2017.”

The spacecraft, which launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, was also carrying supplies and research equipment to the astronaut crew living aboard the ISS.

Asgardia’s name is a reference to Asgard, one of the nine worlds from Norse mythology and the home of gods like Thor, Odin and Heimdallr. The city in the sky has also been used in Marvel’s Thor superhero comic books and movies.

Igor Ashurbeyli, a Russian-Azerbaijani scientist and businessman, came up with the idea for Asgardia and has called it the “first-ever space nation” and a humanitarian effort with a mission of peace and science. Its constitution says it is “based on morality, fairness, peace, and the equal dignity of every human being, looks to the future and the infinite universe, and is a kingdom.”

When the kingdom was founded last year, Ashurbeyli said he wanted to bring people of all nations and religions to space without Earth-bound conflicts getting in the way, according to Popular Science. “Today, many of the problems relating to space law may never be solved in the dark woods of modern international law. … It is time now to create a new judicial reality in space.”

Asgardia is run through the Aerospace International Research Center, another group the scientist founded. Popular Science reported that the AIRC has suggested Asgardia will create some sort of shield around Earth that will stop asteroids and radiation from the sun from harming the planet.

The would-be nation’s website says that more than 120,000 people have already signed up for citizenship, boasting that the population is higher than a few dozen real countries. People can apply to be a citizen by entering an email address, name and birthdate, as well as accepting the constitution.

Ashurbeyli has a goal of getting his project recognized as one of those countries, which would be based in outer space, free from the jurisdiction of the laws of Earth.

“The launch of Asgardia’s first satellite establishes the nation’s sovereign territory in space and satisfies the last condition necessary for admission to the UN: that in addition to the constitution, a government and a currency, the nation must have a territory,” Asgardia’s launch announcement said. “Asgardia’s constitution has already been accepted; its cryptocurrency, the Solar, is registered at the European Union Intellectual Property Office, and the government formation is underway.”

Although nations must have territories, it’s unclear whether it will be a problem that Asgardia won’t have any of its citizens living in that new territory when its satellite enters orbit and is officially an independent space object.