China successfully launched the world’s first quantum satellite Monday, taking the lead in the new space race with this scientific and technological breakthrough in the field of modern communications.
A Long March rocket carrying “Micius,” the first quantum satellite, took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gansu province, according to Xinhua News Agency. Once the satellite is in position and operational, China may become the first country to crack the mystery of quantum communications.
Business Insider reports that the farthest a quantum key has been transmitted is 190 miles. Once the satellite is in orbit, China will attempt to send quantum information from Earth to the satellite, a distance of 310 miles.
The new quantum satellite weighs 1,400 pounds and billions of dollars were spent on the project.
China’s quantum satellite project started in December 2011. Pan Jianwei, a chief scientist involved in the project, explained to the Xinhua News Agency that quantum communication is based on the principles of quantum physics.
Single, synced photons are indivisible, which indicates that transferred information cannot be duplicated. Also, any intrusion by a third party will inadvertently trigger a data transmission collapse. Therefore, China’s new quantum satellite is the world’s first un-hackable satellite and possibly the future of information security.
CCTV argues that the new satellite “gives hope for Earth to build an extremely safe global communication network.”
Marek Zukowski, director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics at the University of Gdasnk in Poland, told CCTV that mastery of the quantum phenomena may “give us some new applications in the future.”
Nicolas Gisin, a professor and quantum physicist at the University of Geneva, told The Wall Street Journal that “there’s been a race to produce a quantum satellite, and it is very likely that China is going to win that race.” He added, “It shows again China’s ability to commit to large and ambitious projects and to realize them.”
As China’s new quantum satellite can defend against unauthorized intrusions by hackers, it offers China an advantage in cyberespionage. China’s name for the satellite, “Micius,” an ancient pacifist, is likely meant to stress to the international community the country does not intend to use its new technology for military purposes.
Lu Chaoyang, a member of China’s quantum satellite project, predicts that this recent breakthrough will trigger a new space race. Following the launch of China’s reportedly un-hackable satellite, the US and other competitors will likely enlist cryptography experts to find a way to penetrate the system. Once that occurs, China will be forced to pursue more advanced security options, and the new space race will be fully underway.
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