ESA Enlists Thales Alenia Space, Partners for Space-based Quantum Project

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Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales and Leonardo, has signed a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to lead the TeQuantS (technological development for space-based quantum resource distribution) project. TeQuantS is aimed at developing quantum space-to-Earth communications technologies. The contract, part of ESA’s ARTES 4.0 Core Competitiveness program element, is supported by French space agency CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) and Austrian space agency ALR.

Satellites are today considered for long-distance quantum communications, since ground-based fiber optic links directly transmitting quantum information are limited to a range of about 150 km. The cybersecurity challenge with these systems is to generate secure cryptographic keys using the quantum properties of light and distribute them to users anywhere in the world. This capability is a response to the threat of quantum computers potentially able to crack cryptographic keys that are in daily use.

The key challenge for quantum information networks is to enable future quantum computers and sensors to talk to each other and fulfill their promised exponential gains in performance.

The TeQuantS project seeks to develop quantum technologies for such cybersecurity applications and future quantum information networks.

The technologies developed through the project will enable Thales Alenia Space and its partners to build satellites and optical ground stations by the end of 2026 that will demonstrate the performance of long-distance quantum satellite links.
The TeQuantS project will develop quantum satellite communication capabilities for secure communication. Courtesy of Thales Alenia Space.
The TeQuantS project will develop quantum satellite communication capabilities for secure communication. Courtesy of Thales Alenia Space.
The project will draw on the expertise of a consortium composed of Airbus Defence and Space; seven smaller firms and startups (ALPAO, AUREA Technology, BERTIN Technologies, MIRATLAS, OGS Technologies, QTlabs, and SIGMAWORKS); and two research laboratories (LIP6 laboratory at Sorbonne University and INPHYNI at Côte d’Azur University/CNRS). 

Published: January 2023
The term quantum refers to the fundamental unit or discrete amount of a physical quantity involved in interactions at the atomic and subatomic scales. It originates from quantum theory, a branch of physics that emerged in the early 20th century to explain phenomena observed on very small scales, where classical physics fails to provide accurate explanations. In the context of quantum theory, several key concepts are associated with the term quantum: Quantum mechanics: This is the branch of...
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