Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) researcher Thomas Jennewein is pioneering new applications for quantum technologies, in particular quantum communications networks in space.
What is the QEYSSat Mission?
- The Quantum EncrYption and Science Satellite (QEYSSat) mission, funded by the Canadian Space Agency (ASC/CSA) & with an anticipated launch in 2023, will be a technology demonstration platform to study quantum links and Quantum Key Distribution for ground-to-space communication with quantum ground stations across Canada and internationally.
- QEYSSat is a low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite with a Quantum Receiver & Transmitter, capable of exchanging quantum-encoded photons with a quantum ground station via line-of-sight freespace link.
- Citation: A. Scott, T. Jennewein, J. Cain, I. D'Souza, B. Higgins, D. Hudson, H. Podmore, W. Soh, "The QEYSSAT mission: on-orbit demonstration of secure optical communications network technologies," Proc. SPIE 11532, Environmental Effects on Light Propagation and Adaptive Systems III, 115320H (2020).
- Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) is the generation of encryption keys between two users (typically called ‘Alice’ and ‘Bob’) whose security is based on the principles of quantum physics, such that information cannot be copied or manipulated without being noticed.
- If an eavesdropper tries to hack the quantum channel, it will disturb the photons, revealing the attack.
Why do we need QKD?
- Future advances in quantum computing could make current public-key encryption methods vulnerable. The security of QKD is not based on the difficulty of solving mathematical problems, but instead based on physical processes. An encryption key generated from QKD that is secure today will remain secure against advances in computing power (i.e. key has “Forward Security”).
- A quantum network will enable long-term data security, thus ensuring Canada’s sovereignty over the privacy of Canadians' public, private, and commercial data.
Why use Satellites?
- While quantum information can be sent over a few hundred kilometers using direct optical fiber links, larger distances require other approaches. Signal transmission in fiber decreases exponentially, and conventional amplification to compensate for the lost signal does not work for quantum information. Ground-based quantum repeaters are being developed, but are unlikely to enable Canada-wide links for the foreseeable future.
- Satellites with quantum technologies onboard are critical components for a Canada-wide Quantum Network, and for building a global Quantum Internet.
Space quantum communication projects
The space quantum science mission concepts build upon a series of relevant projects by IQC that have been generously supported by the CSA, DRDC, FedDev Ontario and other federal and provincial organizations including Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI), Canada Foundation for Innovation/Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation (CFI/MEDI), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Canadian Institute For Advanced Research (CIFAR) and NSERC Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) Program.
In the fall of 2016 the team, supported by the National Research Council of Canada’s (NRC) Flight Research Laboratory, successfully demonstrated quantum key distribution (QKD) between a transmitter on the ground and a receiver payload onboard an NRC Twin Otter Airborne Research Aircraft in the Smiths Falls, Ottawa area.
The QEYSSat mission was green-lit in 2017 when the Canadian government announced federal funding for quantum technologies in space. The IQC team has been working with partners in industry and academia to advance the QEYSSat microsatellite mission through a series of technical studies funded initially by Defense Research and Development Canada (DRDC) and subsequently by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). In 2017, the CSA named Thomas Jennewein as the QEYSSat Science Team Lead and awarded a science support contract for the QEYSSat mission. Honeywell Aerospace/COM DEV was selected to design and implement Phases B-E of the mission.
- Research: Thomas Jennewein, Principal Investigator, Quantum Photonics Laboratory
- Media: Siobhan Stables, Director, Communications and Strategic Initiatives, Institute for Quantum Computing
QEYSSat and QKD Videos
Launched in 2010 with the feasibility study on quantum entanglement experiments in space, the QEYSSat mission is supported through the projects and funding listed in bold below. These projects relate to the study of free-space quantum communication, in view of developing tools for a global Quantum Internet.
QEYSSat Science Team Support Contract
|2017-present||Canadian Space Agency (CSA)|
NSERC UK-Canada Alliance Grant Reference-Frame Independent Quantum Communication for Satellite-Based Networks (ReFQ)
|QEYSSat 2.0 Project||2021-2022||NRC|
|Quantum Photonics Devices for a Quantum Internet||2020-2023||NSERC Department of National Defence (DND) Supplement grant|
|Quantum Photonics Devices for a Quantum Internet||2020-2025||NSERC Discovery|
Facility for building, testing, and operating quantum satellites
|2017-2021||Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Ontario Research Fund (ORF)|
|Deep Space Quantum Payload Radiation Impact Assessment for GEO and Deep Space Environments||2020-2022||CSA-FAST|
|Quantum Photonics Devices for Quantum Communications||2015-2020||NSERC Discovery|
|Building a Workforce for the Cryptographic Infrastructure of the 21st Century||2012-2020||NSERC CREATE|
|Quantum Information Program||2010-2019||CIFAR|
|Quantum-Signal Receiver enhanced by a Single-Photon Detector Array||2018-2019||DRDC|
Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) Demonstration
|Technologies for quantum communication satellites||2016-2019||CSA|
QEYSSat Detector assembly + QKD Payload Elegant Breadboard (EBB)
|Towards quantum sensing with photons||2016-2017||NRC/DRDC|
Acquisition, Pointing and Tracking (APT) System for QKD Payload
|Facility for Global and Secure Quantum Communication||2013-2018||CFI & ORF/MEDI|
Airborne QKD demonstration
Quantum Key Distribution Receiver (QKDR) for QEYSSat
|Entangled Sources for Ground-Based QKD||2013-2015||NSERC Research Tools and Instruments|
|QEYSSat Microsatellite Feasibility Study||2013-2015||CSA (Prime Contractor COMDEV)|
|Advancement of Satellite-Based Quantum Communications||2013-2014||FedDev Ontario|
|Acquisition, Pointing and Tracking (APT) for QEYSSat Study and Breadboarding||2012-2013||CSA (Prime Contractor COMDEV)|
|Satellite-Based Quantum Communication||2011-2015||Ontario MRI Early Researcher Award 2010|
|Canadian Quantum Communication Satellite: Concepts and Components||2011-2012||CSA|
|Facility for Operating and Testing Quantum Devices||2010-2015||CFI & ORF|
|Quantum Photonics Devices for Quantum Communications||2010-2015||NSERC Discovery|
|Feasibility Study on Quantum Entanglements Experiments in Space||2010-2011||CSA (Prime Contractor COMDEV)|
In the media
06/14/19 - Cybersecurity from space: the Government of Canada invests in quantum technology, Canadian Space Agency
03/18/19 - Space Strategy for Canada, Canadian Space Agency
12/19/17 - Press release from Canadian Space Agency
04/27/17 - Press release from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
02/02/17 - Wired article by Sophia Chen
12/22/16 - "We've got photons!"
12/20/16 - Globe and Mail article by Ivan Semeniuk
Quantum Photonics Laboratory
QEYSSat Science Team Principal Investigator Thomas Jennewein is an IQC faculty member and professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo, and leads the Quantum Photonics Laboratory (QPL). The research of the QPL group centers on the applications of quantum photonics and quantum optics, as well as the fundamental aspects of the quantum world. The research group is involved in the experimental design and demonstrations of quantum photonics devices suitable for communication and computing with photons, and the development of ultra-long distance quantum communication systems using terrestrial and satellite-based systems. They are developing photonic quantum entanglement sources for various quantum protocols, and have pioneered the direct generation of three photon entangled states from cascaded parametric down conversion.