Dubbed the TeQuantS project, the satellite system will be employed across cyber security and future quantum information networks, enabling the partners to build satellite and optical ground stations by the close of 2026.
Satellites are viewed as a preferred option for long-distance quantum communication over ground-based fiber-optic links which are limited to a range of some 150 kilometres.
Quantum communications are currently the focus of major research and development programs, notably the EuroQCI project in Europe.
“Supporting European autonomy, leadership and responsibility in today’s digital world is becoming increasingly important. We are proud to be working with the consortium led by Thales Alenia Space to ensure that European citizens will continue to benefit from space-based secure connectivity in everyday life on Earth,” European Space Agency telecommunications and integrated applications acting director Javier Benedicto said.
Thales Alenia Space telecommunications executive vice president Marc-Henri Serre said that the project will enhance European “sovereignty”.
“We’re delighted to be working with our partners to develop quantum technologies that will demonstrate the ability to establish operational long-distance satellite quantum communications links and support Europe’s sovereignty in this area,” he said.
“We thank ESA, CNES and the Austrian Space Agency for their vital support on this project, which is addressing future cyber security and quantum information network challenges.”
A major security issue will require secure cryptographic keys to be generated and distributed, while resisting the ability for current quantum computers to crack cryptographic keys.
Another significant challenge for quantum information networks will be enabling future quantum computers and sensors to talk to each other and fulfil their promised exponential gains in performance.
Thales Alenia Space leads a consortium of firms in the TeQuantS project, these include Airbus Defence and Space, ALPAO, AUREA Technology, BERTIN Technologies, MIRATLAS, OGS Technologies, QTlabs, SIGMAWORKS and two research laboratories at Sorbonne University and Côte d’Azur University.