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Photos from China’s Quantum Communication Satellite Launch
published during a waxing gibbous moon.
08/16/2016

China's Quantum Communication Satellite

The Chinese Academy of Sciences’ quantum simulation laboratory. Credit: Xinhua/Cai Yang

On Tuesday, August 16th at 01:40 Beijing time, China successfully launched its sci-fi-sounding “Quantum Science Satellite” from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gobi Desert. The 600-plus-kilogram satellite, nicknamed “Micius,” road aboard a Long March-2D rocket. It is the third of four planned space science satellites for the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Strategic Priority Research Program on space science, launched in 2011.

The next big breakthrough in cybersecurity

According to a recent report by Xinhua, the state news agency, the satellite will make one full revolution around Earth every 90 minutes as it tests out a new “hack-proof” communication system utilizing the spooky science of quantum entanglement. To do so, the satellite will beam entangled photons that function like cryptological keys between two stations on Earth separated by some 1,200 kilometres. Since quantum photons are inseparable, they can’t be intercepted or broken–which is why quantum communication could be the next big breakthrough in cybersecurity.

If all goes to plan, China’s quantum communication satellite could pioneer the way sensitive information gets pinged back and forth on a global scale. “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,” Pan Jianwei, chief scientist of satellite project with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told the Xinhua News Agency. This network would eventually be employed by governments, financial institutions, and even in broadcasting and TV, the National Business Daily reports. With an estimated potential market value of over $7.5 billion, it’s no surprise that both governments and private companies alike are interested in funding new technologies which utilise quantum science. Last week, it was reported that the

With an estimated potential market value of over $7.5 billion, it’s no surprise that both governments and private companies alike are interested in funding new technologies which utilise quantum science. Last week, it was reported that the NSF invested $12 million to develop a quantum communication system for secure transmissions over fiber optic cables.

To learn more about the science behind the satellite, check out this in-depth article by NOW.SPACE writer, Alex Kasprak.

Credit for all photos: Xinhua/Jin Liwang

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