Progress in quantum computers and their threat to conventional public key infrastructure is driving new forms of encryption. Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) using entangled photons is a promising approach. A global QKD network can be achieved using satellites equipped with optical links. Despite numerous proposals, actual experimental work demonstrating relevant entanglement technology in space is limited due to the prohibitive cost of traditional satellite development. To make progress, we have designed a photon pair source that can operate on modular spacecraft called CubeSats. We report the in-orbit operation of the photon pair source on board an orbiting CubeSat and demonstrate pair generation and polarisation correlation under space conditions. The in-orbit polarisation correlations are compatible with ground-based tests, validating our design. This successful demonstration is a major experimental milestone towards a space-based quantum network. Our approach provides a cost-effective method for proving the space-worthiness of critical components used in entangled photon technology. We expect that it will also accelerate efforts to probe the overlap between quantum and relativistic models of physics.
R. Chandrasekara, Z. Tang, Y. C. Tan, C. Cheng, L. Sha, G. C. Hiang, D. Oi, and A. Ling, "Generation and analysis of correlated pairs of photons on board a nanosatellite," Proc. SPIE 9996, Quantum Information Science and Technology II, 99960E (Presented at SPIE Security + Defence: September 27, 2016; Published: 26 October 2016); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2241491.
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