ESA to launch quantum-encrypted satellite

The European Space Agency, together with SES, will launch the Eagle-1 satellite into orbit. It will test the development of the implementation of quantum keys in the transmission of information. It is believed that such messages cannot be secretly intercepted.

Quantum encryption will be used on the satellite

Quantum encryption on a satellite

The European Space Agency (ESA) and SES have signed an agreement on the creation of the Eagle-1 satellite, the main purpose of which will be to demonstrate quantum encryption technology in space. According to it, SES should lead a consortium of 20 organizations that by 2024 should not only create this satellite, but also launch it into space.

The satellite’s mission will last three years. During this time, it will test the communication technology using a laser beam over long distances. Its special feature will be the use of quantum keys when encrypting information.

The Italian company Sitael will build a 300-kilogram satellite. It will operate in a sun-synchronous orbit with a height of 500 km. Several times a day, it will be able to fly over European ground stations and establish communication with them, testing the technology.

Quantum encryption technology

Quantum encryption technology should not be confused with quantum entanglement. We are not talking about using pairs of atoms, a change in the state of one of which immediately affects the other.  That is, there is probably no question of communication.

Instead, the new system offers a complete impossibility to hack messages. More precisely, encoding in it occurs through quantum states and any interception of a message leads to the destruction of information.

Signing of the agreement on the creation of Eagle-1. Source:

According to the head of ESA, Josef Aschbacher, Eagle-1 will become a prototype of the future pan-European satellite Internet system. It is quantum encryption on satellites that will become the basis of protection against hackers in the future.

Other similar projects

It is important to note that Eagle-1 is not the only satellite with quantum key technology that is being prepared for testing. ESA is working with the British company Arqit to create another test satellite with the same purpose. However, it seems to be intended not for the pan-European network, but for the United Kingdom.

In addition, on September 19, Thales Alenia Space signed a contract with Singapore SpeQtra to create a satellite with SpeQtral-1 quantum encryption technology. It is scheduled to be launched in 2024, and tested in 2025.

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