The Chinese Academy of Sciences announced earlier today that their “quantum satellite” has successfully sent the first ever quantum key distribution from a satellite to the ground, a major step towards their goal of building a hack-proof global quantum communication network.
The work was published today in Nature with the reviewers commenting that the experiment is an impressive achievement that constitutes a milestone in the field.
The project called Quantum Experiments at Space Scale, is estimated to have cost over $100 million.
The satellite, “Micius,” named after a 5th Century B.C. Chinese philosopher and scientist, weighs over 600 kilograms and was launched into a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 500 kilometers in August of last year. The Pentagon called the launch a “notable advance”.
Micius sent its quantum keys to ground stations in China at distances of up to 1,200 kilometers away with a transmission rate 20 orders of magnitude more efficient than that that of an optical fiber of the same length, said Pan Jianwei, the lead scientist behind the project.
“That, for instance, can meet the demand of making an absolute safe phone call or transmitting a large amount of bank data,” Pan said.
China’s first quantum satellite draws attention from scientific world:
The quantum channel is protected from hacking due disturbances that would be produced by any attempt to eavesdrop on the communication.
Once any eavesdropping begins the quantum state of the key changes and any information being eavesdropped on will self-destruct.
Chinese state media reports that the Chinese government sees enormous potential for using this type of quantum satellite for hack-proof defense and financial industry communications.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has made advancing China’s space program a top national priority.