China launches world’s first quantum communication satellite

World Today

China Satellite TAKING OFFIn this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a Long March-2D rocket carrying the world’s first quantum satellite lifts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwestern China’s Gansu Province, early Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016. (Jin Liwang/Xinhua via AP)

China has successfully launched the world’s first quantum communications satellite Tuesday. “Quantum Experiments at Space Scale,” or QUESS, blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert aboard a Long March 2D rocket.

It’s nicknamed “Micius,” after the ancient Chinese philosopher and scientist, credited as the first person to conduct optical experiments.

CCTV’s Wu Haojun has the details.

In a cloud of smoke, the QUESS satellite soared into the dark sky on top of a Long March-2D rocket. Weighing over 600 kilograms, the satellite will circle the Earth once every 90 minutes, after it enters a sun-synchronous orbit.

So, what exactly will QUESS do during its two-year mission?

QUESS will attempt to establish “hack-proof” communications by transmitting un-crackable keys from space to a ground station.

As part of the project, a crystal on the satellite will entangle photons which are the basic elementary particles that make up light.

From 500 kilometers above the Earth, QUESS will beam photons to receivers at a land station, which requires very high accuracy.

Bai Chunli, Dean of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, thinks the experiments will verify the completeness of quantum theory in the space scale for the first time. As well as other things…

“Meanwhile, they can answer some of the questions about the quantum theory that baffled Einstein 100 years ago,” Bai said. “They are very significant both in the sense of experiments and theories.”

People may wonder what is the reason behind this quantum satellite launch. The answer is simple – to provide a super secure communications system. But how does it work?

The satellite sends encrypted information through entangled photons. Any tinkering with one of the photons will lead to the collapse of their hypersensitive quantum state. As a result, it is impossible for anyone to access or decrypt the information the photons carry.

Pan Jianwei, the chief researcher of the project, said China plans to launch further quantum satellites, with the aim of establishing a global, high-security communications network by 2030.

John Horack on QUESS

For more on QUESS and the future of quantum communications in space, CCTV America spoke to John Horack, Neil Armstrong Chair in Aerospace Policy at Ohio State Unversity.

John Horack on quantum technology

To further discuss China’s quantum satellite launch and cyber espionage, CCTV America’s Michelle Makori was joined once again by John Horack.