satellite / ©Fotolia - @nt
satellite / ©Fotolia - @nt
NanoBob: A photon entanglement experiment from ground to CubeSat
The NanoBob mission being developed in collaboration with the group of Rupert Ursin at the IQOQI in Vienna has as its primary objective to demonstrate a full quantum communication link over a distance exceeding 500 km.

Quantum communication is a strategic scientific domain that is expected to lead in the near future to the preferred method to transmit encrypted data by exchanging single photons between two stations. These photons are generated in highly correlated, i.e., entangled, pairs with the information coded into their polarization state. The laws of quantum mechanics dictate that the properties of an individual photon cannot be measured without impacting its state, making the exchange in theory immune to eavesdropping: a quantum mechanical statistical test (the Bell test) can be used to certify the quantum nature of the link and therewith the security of the communication channel. On Earth, fiber and free-space transmission are both limited to distances of several hundreds of km, limited by optical losses and Earth’s curvature. Going to space enables increasing this distance on a global scale and to investigate fundamental physical limitations.  

An important advantage of our approach is that the space segment is relatively simple, as it does not contain the entangled photon source, which remains on the ground. Consequently, it can be implemented in a nanosatellite that adheres to the CubeSat standard, and the payload is highly versatile. NanoBob will be compatible with a variety of quantum communication protocols (not limited to entanglement), but also with experiments in fundamental physics, such as the search for decoherence of entanglement by gravitation (i.e., the interrelation between quantum mechanics and general relativity).

The project passed the Mission Definition Review on 9 June 2017 at the end of its Phase-0 definition and feasibility study. It is currently in Phase A.

Reference : Kerstel, E., Gardelein, A., Barthelemy, M., Gilot, Y., LeCoarer, E., … Ursin, R. (2017). Nanobob: A Cubesat Mission Concept For Quantum Communication Experiments In An Uplink Configuration.

Updated on December 15, 2017