On Thursday of last week Public Works and Government Services Canada posted a contract award notice of $30 million to Honeywell Aerospace from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) but without mentioning what the contract was for.
SpaceQ followed up with the CSA who informed us the contract was for the Quantum EncrYption and Science Satellite (QEYSSat) mission. We then contacted Honeywell for a comment.
Marina Mississian, Senior Director of Payload Products at Honeywell Aerospace said in an email “the Honeywell Aerospace team is thrilled to have won the contract to design and implement the QEYSSat Mission for the Canadian Space Agency. This mission will a be critical next step for Canada towards addressing national cybersecurity priorities and positioning Canadian industry in the emerging market for space-based quantum communications. The project will build directly on the world leading research done at the University of Waterloo’s Institute of Quantum Computing and will leverage Honeywell’s strengths in space optical payload development and microsat mission implementation. We look forward to working with the Canadian Space Agency and partners at the Institute of Quantum Computing on this project.”
It was August 3, 2018 that both Honeywell and Neptec, now an MDA owned company, won contracts to provide competing mission concepts for the QEYSSat satellite.
Based on history you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking Neptec, now a part of MDA, would have the inside edge for this contract. MDA has a lot of experience in being a satellite prime contractor. However, in the end, the Canadian Space Agency went with the Honeywell concept.
SpaceQ podcast with Marina Mississian, Senior Director Space Payloads at Honeywell Aerospace. (March 28, 2019)
It’s an important win for Honeywell in Canada who are well known for manufacturing satellite components, but who aren’t known as a satellite prime contractor.
The CSA in an email told SpaceQ that “under this contract, Honeywell will build, test, deliver, provide training for, launch and commission the QEYSSat satellite, which will create a link between ground and space to transmit encryption keys. The work is expected to extend until the end of 2022.”
The CSA further stated “current encryption methods are expected to be rendered obsolete within the next decade by the exceptional processing power of quantum computers. Slated for launch in 2022, QEYSSat will demonstrate quantum key distribution (QKD) technology in space. This emerging encryption technology will offer Canada a new, more effective method of securing the transfer of information.”
A press release from the Canadian Space Agency also stated “the lessons learned from the QEYSSat mission will be applied to develop future operational systems for government and provide safer, more secure access to services for Canadians. Commercial applications will include enhanced security for internet-based activities, as well as daily financial transactions such as ATM banking.”
Interestingly, Honeywell will be responsible for contracting the launch. Details on the size of the QEYSSat satellite aren’t known at this time, but the mission costs suggests a small satellite, though not as small as a CubeSat. That would suggest Honeywell may opt for a rideshare or the use a proven small satellite launch provider such as Rocket Lab. Conceivably, the launch could happen from Canada at the Maritime Launch Services spaceport in Nova Scotia which is scheduled to be operational by 2021.