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Satellite Communications Technology

Mynaric wins contract on ultra-secure data delivery from space

(23 November 2018 - Mynaric) Mynaric has been selected by UK-based company ArQit to work on an initial study for ultra-secure data delivery from space.

The collaboration with ArQit aims for the delivery of cryptographic keys by satellites to eventually build a system capable of delivering quantum safe communication. These quantum keys will then be used by ArQit’s customers to protect their communications against all kinds of cyber security threats, including those from emerging quantum computers. The project is carried out under a public–private partnership between ArQit and the European Space Agency (ESA) and, as well as Mynaric, the ArQit-led industrial consortium is composed of European leaders in their field, such as QinetiQ of Belgium, BT of the United Kingdom and Fraunhofer IOF of Germany.

The project will validate Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) from space to ground to achieve ultra-high levels of security services through a pre-operational deployment. Quantum Key Distribution ensures that if a message is intercepted the recipient will be aware that its security has been compromised.

The system will combine a trusted optical satellite payload with globally-distributed ground stations to serve government and private sectors where the security and confidentiality of the shared information is critical. Target customers such as banks, insurers, hospitals and governments could require an individual optical ground station for every site intended to be included in the ultra-secure communication system.

Mynaric could become the exclusive supplier of optical ground stations and laser terminals to the project once the first study phase has concluded.

"The work we are doing with ArQit and the other partners of the consortium is another demonstration of our playing an instrumental role in shaping the future of secure, space-based communication; in this case with regard to Quantum Key Distribution. Cyber security is one of the most pressing concerns of our time and we are happy to see that laser communication will play a crucial role in yet another market with high growth projections." Dr Markus Knapek, Member of the Management Board of Mynaric.

In 2016, the efficacy of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) was demonstrated by the Chinese quantum satellite Micius which succeeded in sending a secure communication over a distance 7,500 km between China and Austria. Mynaric and ArQit are now working on exploring a potential commercial solution using similar technology.

Quantum Key Distribution is inherently secure because quantum mechanics make sure information only exists once. If it is intercepted then it does not reach the intended receiver who will then know that something is not right. If the intended receiver does receive the information he can be sure that is was not intercepted.

The physics behind this is that Quantum Key Distribution uses lasers to transmit the keys. The quantum properties of photons in the laser beams are coded into binary ‘ones’ and ‘zeroes’. If a third party intercepts the beam, by being observed, the quantum properties change, making the keys useless to an attacker.

Establishing optical quantum communication using laser links from satellites is the most promising way to bridge large – even global – distances with unbreakable communication links. Laser communication is an essential building block in the establishment of large scale QKD networks because in space lasers can transmit data over thousands of kilometers making global secure links feasible.