Honeywell funding launches QEYSSat into orbit

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Professor Thomas Jennewein satellite project

When senior citizens use online banking apps to pay their bills, you know the world has gone digital. Thomas Jennewein, Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) member and professor in Waterloo’s department of Physics and Astronomy, has been watching digital communication, like banking, become mainstream. And he’s worried about it. 

Digital communication methods, used currently to send everything from money transfers to pictures of cats, are not the most secure. Jennewein believes quantum encryption is the key. Since 2009, he has been the Principal Investigator of the Quantum Encryption and Science Satellite (QEYSSat) initiative. Working with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), he’s been developing and testing prototypes of quantum communicators. His goal is to advance quantum cryptography research by demonstrating ultra-secure quantum communication via global satellites. 

Jennewein and his team have led rounds of feasibility testing, even launching a prototype in an airplane to demonstrate ground to sky transfer, all in the name of building a more secure method of sharing information between two people over long distances. 

But one major piece has been missing in his research: who will actually put his device into orbit? Last week, his question was answered when the CSA announced a $30 million contract awarded to COM DEV, now a part of the Honeywell family, for the design and implementation phase of QEYSSat. 

“I’m really excited about this news,” Jennewein said. “We are proud to be drawing upon Canadian knowledge and expertise to build this mission”

Scheduled for a 2022 launch, Jennewein and his team can now start taking their ideas and prototypes and move them towards a working satellite capable of quantum key distribution, an ultra-secure method of sharing cryptographic keys. 

“Building and testing the satellite will allow us to launch quantum communications in space,” said Jennewein.  “We will demonstrate ultra-secure key distribution on a global scale and help Canada and the world move towards a new generation of secure communication.”

En français.

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