China Launches World’s First “Hack-Proof” Quantum-Communications Satellite

August 18, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Photo credit: VISHAL TOMAR/flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Harnessing the mysterious workings of quantum entanglement.

On Monday (August 15), China launched the world’s first-ever quantum satellite, dubbed the Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) spacecraft, in efforts to establish a “hack-proof” communications system.

QUESS launched from a Long March-2D rocket at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gobi Desert, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua. The satellite weighs in at 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms), and is programmed to complete one lap around Earth every 90 minutes, at an altitude of about 310 miles (500 kilometers).

According to Xinhua, QUESS is designed to establish a “hack-proof” quantum communications system by transmitting keys from space to the ground that can’t be cracked. Researchers hope the two-year mission will also provide new insights into quantum entanglement — one of the strangest phenomena in quantum physics.

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Quantum entanglement describes “entangled” particles that are curiously linked to each other, even though the particles may be separated by millions of miles of space. If one of the particles goes through a change, it somehow affects the entangled particle as well.

“Quantum communication boasts ultra-high security as a quantum photon can neither be separated nor duplicated,” explains Xinhua. “It is hence impossible to wiretap, intercept or crack the information transmitted through it.”

As impressive as the unhackable quantum communication undertaking is, it doesn’t stop there — QUESS will also test out “quantum teleportation” by beaming specific information about particle states from the satellite to the ground station in Tibet, Xinhua reports.

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