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.
We report on the performance of a compact photon pair source that was retrieved from a failed space launch. The source had been installed in a nanosatellite and was found to be completely operational upon recovery. Comparison of post-recovery and baseline data suggests that there is no degradation in brightness or polarization correlation between photon pairs. We describe the assembly technique for the robust source. Its survival provides strong evidence that it is possible to design rugged quantum optical systems.
The Small Photon Entangling Quantum System (SPEQS) is an integrated instrument where the pump, photon pair source and detectors are combined within a single optical tray and electronics package. This footprint enables the instrument to be placed onboard nanosatellites or the CubeLab facility within the International Space Station. The first mission to understand the different environmental conditions that may affect the operation of an entangled photon source in low Earth orbit (LEO) is underway. Here we present a work towards a violation of Bell's inequality with a brightness and visibility that can facilitate quantum key distribution (QKD) from space to ground.
The Small Photon Entangling Quantum System is an integrated instrument where the pump, photon pair source and detectors are combined within a single optical tray and electronics package that is no larger than 10cm×10cm×3cm. This footprint enables the instrument to be placed onboard nanosatellites or the CubeLab facility within the International Space Station. The first mission is to understand the different environmental conditions that may affect the operation of an entangled photon source in low Earth orbit. This understanding is crucial for the construction of cost-effective entanglement based experiments that utilize nanosatellite architecture. We will discuss the challenges and lessons we have learned over three years of development and testing of the integrated optical platform and review the perspectives for future advanced experiments.
We present a software based control system for Geiger-mode avalanche photodiodes (GM-APDs) that enables constant photon detection efficiency irrespective of the diode's junction temperature. Furthermore, we demonstrate that this control system enables passively quenched GM-APDs to double the rate of photon detection events before saturation compared to the standard control method that fixes the junction temperature and applied bias voltage. We present data demonstrating the robustness of the GM-APD control system when tested in near-space conditions using a correlated photon pair source carried by a weather balloon to an altitude of 35.5 km.