China successfully launched the world’s first quantum satellite, Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS), from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert yesterday.
The 600-plus-kilogram satellite, launched atop a Long March-2D rocket, will circle the Earth once every 90 minutes after it enters a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 500km.
It is nicknamed “Micius,” after a fifth century BC Chinese philosopher and scientist who has been credited as the first in human history to conduct optical experiments.
In its two-year mission, QUESS is designed to establish “hack-proof” quantum communications by transmitting uncrackable keys from space to the ground, and provide insights into the strangest phenomenon in quantum physics – quantum entanglement.
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.
With the help of the new satellite, scientists will be able to test quantum key distribution between the satellite and ground stations, and conduct secure quantum communications between Beijing and Xinjiang’s Urumqi.
QUESS, as planned, will also beam entangled photons to two earth stations, 1 200km apart, in a move to test quantum entanglement over a greater distance, as well as test quantum teleportation between a ground station in Ali, Tibet and itself.
The news was broadcast by the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua.