Quantum Encryption Satellite QEYSSat Phase A Contracts Awarded to Neptec and COM DEV

Credit: Canadian Space Agency.

The Canadian Space Agency has awarded two QEYSSat Phase A contracts to Neptec and COM DEV as Canada looks to establish a space based satellite quantum encryption capability.

Neptec and COM DEV will each develop a mission concept and system requirements.

QEYSSat Background

In the Request for Proposals the Canadian Space Agency defined the program as follows;

The QEYSSat demonstration mission will provide a government-owned, space-based platform for federal stakeholders and the Canadian scientific community to test and demonstrate Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) transmission in space. This technology demonstration mission will help Canadian researchers reduce risks inherent to the innovation process by enabling opportunities to conduct tests and experimentations in realistic environments – in space – to advance space-based QKD technology.

The QEYSSat demonstration mission will bring Canada a step closer to an operational quantum communications service from space and a stronger overall cyber security posture for the nation in an age of quantum computing when traditional encryption is rendered obsolete. The development of new quantum technologies has the potential to transform markets, create new industries and produce leading edge jobs. Reliable cryptography is an important component of a truly secure communication infrastructure. Cyber security will strengthen our national sovereignty, security and prosperity by protecting our public and private networks, and other important institutions such as banks, hospitals and other service industries will depend on it.

The QEYSSat demonstration mission will create a quantum link between ground and space using polarized photons and transmit encryption keys to ground based users, using this link. These keys will then allow encrypting and transmitting information securely over the public communication infrastructure. These keys can also be used to re-key the satellite itself, or be distributed to one or more ground stations, with the satellite acting as the trusted node. In achieving this goal, the quantum link will be characterized and tested to gain insights into such things as the applicability of different types of photon sources and transmission schemes from Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The satellite will be used for concurrent scientific experiments with the long distance quantum link. Of particular interest are tests of the entanglement of photon pairs, with one photon remaining on ground and one being sent to the satellite. The insights that may be gained from this demonstration mission will provide information and risk mitigation strategies relevant to future missions, both application and science oriented.

As part of this mission, the CSA also encourages potential contractors to explore opportunities to include an optional, industry-funded secondary payload – an additional technology component or instrument that is not necessarily related to the objective of the mission – onboard the QEYSSat platform. This would provide the successful contractor of phases BCD an opportunity to launch and demonstrate the space-worthiness of their own innovations in space to achieve “flight heritage,” a critical precursor to the commercialization of space technologies.

QEYSSat Phase A

In the Phase A both contractors will;

  • Develops the QEYSSat mission concept design and system requirements with and without the secondary payload;
  • Develops the technology readiness and risk assessment (TRRA) and related roadmap;
  • Develops the product assurance requirements;
  • Supports the PI in the development of the operational concept.

The contract value awarded to Neptec and COM DEV is $750K and the work must completed within six months.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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