Quantum QKD satellite readies for launch
A satellite to test out quantum key distribution (QKD) developed with two UK universities is set to launch shortly.
The RefQ project led by Glasgow-based Craft Prospect is developing a space-based photonics source of quantum signals for launch on the Canadian QYESSat (Quantum Encryption and Science Satellite) mission.
The Universities of Strathclyde and Bristol are working on the quantum source to be integrated into the satellite and the testing of new ways to distribute quantum encryption keys from space. Strathclyde will also collaborate with the project’s academic lead, the University of Waterloo in Ontario, on theory and modelling of the quantum payload, as well as developing secure communication protocols based on the new hardware.
The first prototypes of the UK systems have been delivered and are now undergoing integration testing in Canada.
“This project aligns with the efforts to build collaborations between Strathclyde and the University of Waterloo in the area of quantum technologies. Craft Prospect is also a long-term commercial partner with Strathclyde in the development of CubeSat quantum key distribution,” said Daniel Oi, Senior Lecturer in Strathclyde’s Department of Physics, is the University’s lead on RefQ.
“In addition, RefQ is connected with the UK Quantum Technology Hub in Quantum Communications, in which Strathclyde is a partner, in its mission to launch a CubeSat in 2023-24.”
“The quantum key distribution technology developed in this project represents a major step towards realising space-to-ground secure key distribution, a truly transformative technology,” said Prof John Rarity from the University of Bristol’s Quantum Information Institute.
“The source we develop with our project partners, Craft Prospect and the University of Strathclyde, will fly on board the QEYSSat Satellite extending the scope of the mission to demonstrate links to ground stations on both sides of the Atlantic.”
The quantum key distribution technology developed in this project is targeted to fly on board QEYSSat, thereby extending the scope of the mission and demonstrating links to ground stations on both sides of the Atlantic.
“We are only at the start of developing quantum technologies, but it is already clear that they offer us a world of opportunity across entire sectors like healthcare, communications and financial services,” said UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway.
“The UK and Canada have a strong collaborative relationship in science and technology. By our businesses and academics working together, these incredible new projects will help us accelerate the development, scale up and commercialisation of quantum technologies, ensuring the UK remains a world-leader in this area,” she added.
The UK technology in ReFQ stems from work initiated by the Quantum Research CubeSat (QUARC) project led by Strathclyde and further developed by the ROKS mission (due for launch in 2022) led by Craft Prospect together with the University of Bristol. QUARC and ROKS are supported by the UK Space Agency under the National Space Technology Programme, Innovate UK, and the Quantum Technology Hub in Quantum Communications. Strathclyde is also working with the Satellite Applications Catapult and various companies on the commercialisation of space quantum technologies.
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