China has taken the first step towards ‘hack-proof communication system’ by launching the world’s first quantum satellite. The late-night launch of the quantum satellite from the Gobi Desert has firmly placed China as a leader in the world of quantum computing.
The satellite named “Micius” after an ancient philosopher from China, weighed 600 kilogrammes. The satellite was fired on Tuesday, from a Long March-2D rocket at 1:40 am.
The particle phenomenon called “quantum entanglement” makes it impossible to penetrate the data transferred via quantum communication. The cyber espionage becomes remarkably difficult because the hackers have to alter the quantum state to monitor data transfer, thus alerting the authorities to their presence.
With a quantum communication system in place, the parties can communicate without any fears of being eavesdropped upon, using a string of photon coded encryption key. Beijing is promoting a multi-billion dollar strategy to establish China as a centre of global and space research. Meanwhile, Japan, Europe, Singapore, and Canada are also working on their own quantum computing systems for space and satellite communication.
The lead physicist of the Chinese quantum program, Pan Jianwei, shared the motivation behind the project:
“The Edward Snowden case has told us that the information in the transmission networks are exposed to risks of being monitored and being attacked by hackers.”
Initially, the quantum communication systems might be used to establish secure two-way channels for the transmission of the diplomatic and military data of sensitive nature. Later, the systems will also be utilised for the secure transmission of personal or financial information; however, potential military applications are not out of question.
“China is completely capable of making full use of quantum communications in a regional war. The direction of development in the future calls for using relay satellites to realise quantum communications and control that covers the entire army.”
The Micius will communicate with the Beijing and Vienna ground stations. Thus far, the quantum communication has only been tested up to a distance of 300 kilometres. With Micius in place, the Chinese authorities can check the system at a much larger range.
You can see the quantum satellite being launched in the video below: