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Proceedings Paper

Q³Sat: quantum communications uplink to a 3U CubeSat: feasibility and design (Conference Presentation)
Author(s): Sebastian Philipp Neumann; Siddarth K. Joshi; Matthias Fink; Thomas Scheidl; Roland Blach; Carsten Scharlemann; Sameh Abouagaga; Daanish Bambery; Erik Kerstel; Mathieu Barthelemy; Rupert Ursin

Paper Abstract

In the absence of technically mature quantum repeaters, losses in optical fibers limit the distance for ground-bound quantum key distribution. One way to overcome these losses is via optical links to satellites, which has been demonstrated in course of the Chinese-Austrian QUESS mission. Though its findings were impressive, such a large-scale project requires massive financial and time resources. We propose a 32x10x10cm³ nanosatellite orders of magnitude cheaper which is able to perform quantum key distribution (QKD) in a trusted-node scenario, using only commercially available components. We have performed a detailed analysis of such a CubeSat mission (“Q³Sat”), finding that cost and complexity can be reduced by sending the photons from ground to satellite, i.e. using an uplink. Calculations have been done for a prepare-and-send protocol (BB84 with decoy pulses) and for a protocol exploiting quantum entanglement (E91), both using polarization as information carrier. We specified the minimum requirements for the sender stations for these two different protocols. Possible orbits have been assessed, regarding both height and ellipticity to maximize link time and minimize losses. Using long-term weather data, we developed a beam model taking into account absorption, turbulence-induced beam divergence and pointing stability of sender and receiver telescope. Using light pollution measurements from space and their spectra, we arrive at maximum expectable noise count rates. We also specify the requirements for clock stability, classical communication speed and computing requirements. Incorporating all these parameters into our model, we arrive at a link budget which we can use to calculate the expected quantum secure key rates. We have also created a preliminary design of such a 3U CubeSat including a detailed size, weight and power budget and a CAD to account for the assembly of the components. Deploying a 10 cm long mirror telescope covering the small surface of the satellite leaves enough space for a polarization analysis module and housekeeping, communication and computing electronics. Polarization analysis can be done via a polarizing beam splitter and single-photon detectors with a cross section small enough to rule out radiation damage. Pointing stability and detumbling is crucial especially for such a small satellite and can be achieved via spinning wheels, achieving a precision in the tilt and yaw axis of 40 mrad. For one such CubeSat, we estimate the quantum secure key to be acquired between two ground stations during one year to be about 13 Mbit when deploying a decoy protocol. A Bell test between ground and satellite would also be feasible. The uplink design allows to keep the more sensitive, computation-intensive and expensive devices on ground. The experiment proposed by us therefore poses a comparably low-threshold quantum space mission. For a two-year lifetime of the satellite, the price per kilobit would amount to about 20 Euro. In large constellations, Q³Sats could be used to establish a global quantum network, which would further lower the cost. Summarizing, our detailed design and feasibility study can be readily used as a template for global-scale quantum communication.

Paper Details

Date Published: 11 October 2018
Proc. SPIE 10799, Emerging Imaging and Sensing Technologies for Security and Defence III; and Unmanned Sensors, Systems, and Countermeasures, 107990D (11 October 2018); doi: 10.1117/12.2326530
Show Author Affiliations
Sebastian Philipp Neumann, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Austria)
Siddarth K. Joshi, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Austria)
Matthias Fink, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Austria)
Thomas Scheidl, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Austria)
Roland Blach, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Austria)
Carsten Scharlemann, Fachhochschule Wiener Neustadt (Austria)
Sameh Abouagaga, Fachhochschule Wiener Neustadt (Austria)
Daanish Bambery, Fachhochschule Wiener Neustadt (Austria)
Erik Kerstel, Univ. Grenoble Alpes (France)
Mathieu Barthelemy, Univ. Grenoble Alpes (Austria)
Rupert Ursin, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Austria)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10799:
Emerging Imaging and Sensing Technologies for Security and Defence III; and Unmanned Sensors, Systems, and Countermeasures
Gerald S. Buller; Markus Mueller; Richard C. Hollins; Robert A. Lamb, Editor(s)

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