Hack-proof? China launches world’s 1st quantum communications satellite

Date-16 th October 2016

https://www.rt.com/news/356086-china-quantum-communications-satellite/

The world’s first quantum communications satellite has been launched into orbit aboard a Long March-2D rocket. The main task of the                                         Chinese satellite is to potentially secure communications in an age of cyberattacks and global electronic surveillance.

The 600+kg Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) satellite took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gobi Desert                                                             at 1:40am local time on a two-year mission on Tuesday.

Nicknamed 'Micius', in honor of the 5th century BC Chinese philosopher and scientist, QUESS will be positioned at sun-synchronous orbit,                                         some 600km (373 miles) above the Earth at an angle of 97.79 degrees, allowing it circle our planet once every 90 minutes.

“The newly-launched satellite marks a transition in China’s role – from a follower in classic information technology (IT) development                                                             to one of the leaders guiding future IT achievements,” said Pan Jianwei, chief scientist of QUESS project with the Chinese Academy of                                            Sciences (CAS), as quoted by Xinhua.

The satellite has been tasked with testing out a potentially uncrackable communications system. QUESS will explore quantum teleportation                                           by sending out keys from space to ground command using the principle of 'quantum entanglement', an act of fusing two or more particles                                                into complementary 'quantum states'.

In practice, China hopes to send out photons from the satellite to two ground stations separated by about 1,200km (746 miles), which                                          together form one entangled system. Operated by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the satellite contains a quantum key communicator,                                                a processing unit, a laser communicator, quantum entanglement emitter, and entanglement source to transmit quantum keys to Earth.

Quantum communication encryption is a unique method of encoding the content of a message as quantum keys are theoretically                                                         impossible to crack with the system detecting any intrusion attempts. For instance, when two people share an encrypted quantum                                           message, if a third person intercepts it, it will change in an unpredictable way.

China hopes that the experimental quantum encryption programs will be instrumental in addressing information security concerns                                                 when the government, military and financial networks are becoming prime targets for espionage.

QUESS is one of the National Space Science Center's 'Strategic Priority Programs'. If QUESS is successful, China hopes to erect                                                      an Asian-European quantum key distribution network by 2020, and a global quantum communications network in 2030.

“If China is going to send more quantum communication satellites into orbit, we can expect a global network of quantum                                      communications to be set up around 2030,” said Pan.