The first quantum satellite was the more than half-ton Chinese Micius. But with a bit of research and engineering, we managed to get the weight much lower. The Cubesat SpooQy-1 with quantum capabilities weighs just 2.5 kilograms.
If there is something Cubesats look like it's a shoe-box. But one that was thrown out by someone who bought new shoes in space. Yet, you should not underestimate them. In the few years, we have been putting them in space they showed their incredible potential. They observe the Universe, conduct experiments, and two Cubesats even made it to Mars. Now, a new achievement was achieved by these inconspicuous machines. Though, Albert Einstein would probably not be happy as it has to do with spooky action at a distance – quantum entanglement.
Nonetheless, physicists found out long ago that quantum entanglement works well in experiments. But the team from the National University of Singapore recently elevated quantum entanglement even higher. More precisely, onboard the Cubesat with the awesome name SpooQy-1. This Cubesat includes a device that creates pairs of quantum entangled photons by shining a blue laser diode onto non-linear crystals.
While SpooQy-1 isn't the world's first quantum satellite – that achievement is held by the Chinese quantum satellite Micius – it certainly is the currently smallest and lightest quantum satellite. Micius is a big boy – weighing 600 kilograms while SpooQy-1 is just 20 cm by 10 cm large and weighs just 2.5 kilograms.
The creators of this quantum Cubesat developed a device that reliably produces pairs of quantum entangled photons that is small, light, and powerful enough to work onboard the Cubesat. And at the same time, it needed to be durable enough to live through all the extreme conditions when going into space and being in orbit. Thus, SpooQy-1 can produce pairs of entangled photons as long as the temperature of the environment is between minus 10 degrees Celsius to plus 40 degrees Celsius.
The Chinese Micius was great in the fact that it confirmed that quantum communication through a satellite can work. As a bonus, it broke the record at which quantum communication worked. But if we one day want to have a real global quantum internet we will need a full network of quantum satellites. And for that smaller and cheaper satellites would be better. Satellites like the Cubesats.
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