China launches world’s first quantum satellite “Micius”


BEIJING : China on Tuesday launched the world’s first quantum satellite, which will help it establish “hack-proof” system of encrypted communications between space and the ground, state media said.

According to the official Xinhua news service, the launch took place at 1:40 am in the southwestern Gobi Desert and comes as the US, Japan and others also seek to develop applications for the burgeoning technology.

The programme is a priority as President Xi Jinping has urged China to establish itself as a space power and apart from its civilian ambitions, it has tested anti-satellite missiles.

The satellite is named after the ancient Chinese scientist and philosopher Micius.

It will also further investigations into some of the more unusual properties of sub-atomic particles, including “quantum entanglement”, Xinhua added.

Unlike traditional secure communication methods, China’s proposed system uses photons to send the encryption keys necessary to decode information. The data contained in the bursts of subatomic particles is impossible to intercept any attempts at eavesdropping will cause them to self-destruct, letting users know that their communications have been compromised, Xinhua said

Scientists have shown the trick can be used to transmit messages over relatively short distances, the current record is around 300 kilometres, according to an article in the journal Nature.

The satellite will attempt to send secure messages between Beijing and Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang in the country’s far west. Success will require the satellite is precisely oriented to its earth-bound receiving stations, Xinhua said.

According to the project’s chief commander, Wang Jianyu, It will be like tossing a coin from a plane at 100,000 metres above the sea level exactly into the slot of a rotating piggy bank.”

Satellite project’s chief scientist Pan Jianwei said 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. China can expect a global network of quantum communications to be set up around 2030, he added.

Source : AFP



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