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China Launches World's First Quantum Satellite
Aug 23, 2016

On August 16 China launched the world’s first quantum satellite, which will help it establish ‘hack-proof’ communications between space and the ground, the latest advance in an ambitious space programme.

Key Features

  • The satellite is both an extreme test of the weird properties of quantum mechanics, and a technology test-bed for what could be the start of a global, unhackable communications network.

  • First, QUESS undergo three months of testing. If everything is correct, it will be handed to the scientists for scientific experiment.

  • In its two-year mission, QUESS is designed to establish ‘hack-proof’ quantum communications by transmitting uncrackable keys from space to the ground.

  • Quantum communication boasts ultra-high security as a quantum photon can neither be separated nor duplicated. It is hence impossible to wiretap, intercept or crack the information transmitted through it.

  • The satellite will enable secure communications between Beijing and Urumqi, referring to the capital of China’s violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang.

  • The newly-launched satellite marks a transition in China’s role—from a follower in classic information technology development to one of the leaders guiding future achievements.

  • Quantum communications holds ‘enormous prospects’ in the field of defence.

China insists its space programme is for peaceful purposes, but the US defence department has highlighted its increasing space capabilities, saying it was pursuing activities aimed to prevent adversaries from using space-based assets in a crisis.

What is Quantum Science?

The fundamental problem of cryptography involves exchanging keys—secret alphanumeric strings—that enable people to encode and decode messages. When two parties swap keys, they normally have no indication whether anyone has intercepted them; an interloper with stolen keys can eavesdrop on correspondence or manipulate it. When quantum science is applied, the keys can be made to self-destruct or change if a third party interferes with their transmission. The keys are sent using pairs of entangled photons, or light particles that share a special bond, to carry the information


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