SES, ESA and European Commission partner on satellite-based quantum cryptography system

Satellite orbiting Earth
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A consortium of 20 European companies led by the federal government’s Senior Executive Service (SES) is set to build Europe’s first sovereign Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) system.

The move is anticipated to facilitate secure cryptographic key transmission to bolster cyber security among European nations.


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Per reports, the EAGLE-1 satellite-based QKD system will be developed in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) and European Commission. An operations centre is also underway in Luxembourg, in addition to a dedicated low earth orbit satellite.

On a related note, it is anticipated that the EAGLE-1 satellite will launch in 2024 and will be in orbit for three years with support from the European Commission.

A QKD demonstration and validation from low earth orbit to the ground will be completed by ESA and EU Member States through EAGLE-1, which will aid next-generation quantum communication infrastructures (QCIs) using valuable space mission data.

Most importantly, the breakthrough in in-orbit technologies will pave the way for sovereign and autonomous cross-border quantum communications networks. Furthermore, the consortium will work towards developing a QKD payload, terrestrial optical station, scalable quantum operational networks, and key management system to facilitate EAGLE-1’s ultra-secure cryptographic key exchange system.

Josef Aschbacher, ESA director general, said: “European space innovation has gained strong momentum both from a technology perspective and in terms of commercialisation. It allows us to develop and implement next-generation, future-proof projects in space across critical domains like secure communication, next-generation networks and cybersecurity.”

“Led by ESA, partially financed by the European Commission and implemented by SES, EAGLE-1 is a major step towards making the secure and scalable European Quantum Communications Infrastructure a reality,” added Aschbacher.