The governments of Singapore and the UK have announced a £10 million initiative (US$13.03m) to build and fly a satellite quantum key distribution (QKD) test bed. Through this collaboration, Singapore and the UK will co-develop “QKD Qubesat”, a satellite based on the CubeSat standard, with a targeted operational date of 2021.
The CubeSat will use QKD technology to test the secure distribution of cryptographic keys between Singapore and the UK.
In the UK, work will be led by the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) Space facility, who will contribute the optical links needed for beaming QKD signals.
In Singapore, work will be led by the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) at the National University of Singapore (NUS), who will build the QKD instruments.
In 2016 CQT, along with the UK’s University of Strathclyde, launched a CQT-built CubeSat that became the world’s first demonstration of in-orbit technology for satellite-based quantum network nodes. CQT will also launch SpooQy-1, a 3U quantum CubeSat, from the International Space Station (ISS) this year.
This time, the collaboration aims to build on both countries’ efforts to grow the space and quantum technologies sectors by employing quantum entanglement to establish a secret key between satellite and ground. The satellite will perform QKD between two ground stations, one in the UK and the other in Singapore.
Dr Artur Ekert, Director of CQT, said, “Having access to quantum-secured communication is a smart step for cybersecurity. We already have trials over fibre for secure communication within Singapore, building on CQT’s decade of development of this quantum technology. Reaching into space with our UK partner is a strategic move towards global data security.”
Dr Chris Mutlow, Director of STFC RAL Space said: “As the UK’s national laboratory for innovative space technology development, this is exactly the kind of mission we are here for. Alongside our international partners, we will provide a vehicle for technology readiness-raising and rapid space qualification of quantum technologies. This mission puts the UK ahead of our competitors in quantum communications. It will enable the space sector to tap into new manufacturing and export opportunities that will help the UK achieve its ambition of capturing a 10% share of the estimated £40 billion (US$52.1b) global space market by 2030.”