China sets world record, sends unbreakable code from satellite to Earth


China has sent an unbreakable code from its Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) satellite to Earth, representing the first step in developing a "hack-proof" global quantum communication network.

Hackers always find new ways to breach computer security, to access sensitive information and to damage companies and countries.

China launched the world's first quantum satellite, Nicknamed "Micius", on 16 August a year ago, to help establish "hack proof" communications.

"Satellite-based quantum key distribution can be linked to metropolitan quantum networks where fibres are sufficient and convenient to connect numerous users within a city over 100 km". Pan Jianwei, lead scientist of the mission told Xinhua.

Pan said: "That, for instance, can meet the demand of making an absolute safe phone call or transmitting a large amount of bank data".

The Micius test was one of several experiments "bringing the concept of a global quantum internet closer to fruition", wrote Robert Bedington, Juan Miguel Arrazola and Alexander Ling in a review article in the journal Nature. The satellite has a photon receiver, and passes over ground stations at the same time every day, during which times scientists can beam up a stream of photons. Once fully operational, the satellite will allow to establish secure communications on ground stations separated by many thousands of kilometers.

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According to the system's designers, the system will self-destruct and the quantum state of the key will change if intercepted and measured.

A Long March-2D rocket carrying the world's first quantum satellite lifts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwestern China's Gansu Province.

China envisions a future with ground-based QKD networks and a global satellite system interacting to form a powerful, worldwide secure network.

"This is remarkable on many levels: a 500 km distance, the challenges of stabilizing and tracking the satellite, and atmospheric turbulence, " said Shellee Dyer, a member of the faint photonics group at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, in an e-mail.

The technology is known as quantum key distribution (QKD).