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World's First Demonstration of Space Quantum Communication Using a Microsatellite

- A big step toward building a truly-secure global communication network -

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July 11, 2017

NICT developed the world's smallest and lightest quantum-communication transmitter (SOTA) onboard the microsatellite SOCRATES. We succeeded in the demonstration of the first quantum-communication experiment from space, receiving information from the satellite in a single-photon regime in an optical ground station in Koganei city. SOTA weighs 6 kg and its size is 17.8 cm length, 11.4 cm width and 26.8 cm height. It transmits a laser signal to the ground at a rate of 10 million bits per second from an altitude of 600 km at a speed of 7 km/s. We succeeded in correctly detecting the communication signal from SOTA moving at this fast speed. This is a major step toward building a global long-haul and truly-secure satellite communication network.
As a result of this research, NICT demonstrated that satellite quantum communication can be implemented with small low-cost satellites, which makes it possible to many research institutions and companies to use this key technology. It is an achievement that opens a new page in the development future global communication networks, being a big boost to the space industry.
The results of this research were accepted to be published in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal "Nature Photonics" (August 2017 physical issue, electronic version accessible from July 11, 2017).

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Quantum ICT Advanced Development Center