China launches QUESS quantum communication satellite


China has launched the Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) satellite into space from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the north-western Gobi Desert.

Launched aboard a Long March-2D rocket, QUESS is the world's first quantum satellite to study quantum entanglement.

Once deployed into a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 500km, QUESS will send entangled photons to two Earth stations located in a distance of 1,200km.

Weighing more than 600kg, QUESS will test quantum entanglement over a larger distance, and quantum teleportation between a ground station in Ali, Tibet, and itself.

"The newly launched satellite marks a transition in China's role."

Designed for a two-year mission period, the satellite will take a tour around the earth every 90min.

During the mission, QUESS will look to establish ‘hack-proof’ quantum communications by transmitting untraceable inputs from space to the ground.

QUESS project chief scientist Pan Jianwei was quoted by Xinhua as saying: "The newly launched satellite marks a transition in China's role, from a follower in classic information technology (IT) development to one of the leaders guiding future IT achievements.”

Quantum communication strengthens ultra-high security as a quantum photon cannot be separated nor duplicated, making the transmitted communication impossible to wiretap, intercept and crack.

However, the newly launched satellite will test quantum key distribution between the satellite and ground stations, as well as help perform secure quantum communications between China’s Beijing and Xinjiang's Urumqi.

Depending on China’s plan to launch additional quantum communication satellites into orbit, there will be a global quantum communications network by 2030.

In 2008, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) subsidiary Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics started the quantum science satellite (QSS) project, reported South China Morning Post.