Quantum Cryptography Satellite system for Europe

Working process QKD

On September 22, at the International Aeronautical Congress, SES and the European space agency signed a contract for Eagle 1 to develop the satellite and validate quantum key distribution (QKD) technology. With over 20 companies securing the contract for the satellite for a three-year mission in the earth’s lower orbit, the main objective for EU is to work on the European Quantum communication initiative, which believes in establishing a secure and safe communication system in the continent.

Understanding QKD, it is a secure form of communication for sharing encryption keys only known to shared parties. The communication technique exchanges cryptographic keys verifiably, ensuring security by utilizing aspects of quantum physics. The system generally comprises a photon generator on board the satellite. The photons are released and received by the ground stations where there are the filter/decoders that would decode the bean and generate the key; this key is then communicated with the transmitter end and checked, therefore any attempt to hack on the connection alters the state of the photons and destroys the keys, QKD is hailed as the next significant step in offering secure networks.

Eagle-1’s primary objective is to evaluate long-distance quantum key distribution (QKD), a crucial component of quantum encryption. Longer distance QKD using laser communications is achievable in space than is feasible with terrestrial systems. Eagle 1 is scheduled to be launched in 2024 and will pass over various ground stations for validating the tests.

Before Europe, China had already established and validated this technology in space in 2016, but at an initial rate. Unfortunately, their ground stations were separated by a distance of 1200km, and the experiment had to be carried out without light as it would interfere with the photos. Countries like UK and Singapore have been very active in the whole QKD ecosystem.

With the compromised VIASAT satellite communication, which led to a major loss of data, having secure and safe communication technologies like QKD will help create awareness about cyber security in the space world.