A tiny satellite developed at Tel Aviv University (TAU) was launched into space yesterday as part of a research project into the ultra-secure transfer of data.
The TAU-SAT3 blasted off from SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, in Florida, USA.
During its five years in orbit it will send optical and radio signals back to an “optical ground station” at the university to help researchers create an “unconditionally secure encryption method”.
A new generation of quantum computers, with unimaginable processing power, will be able to crack the codes protecting our data – from personal, medical, and financial records, to email and WhatsApp messages.
“Eavesdropping-proof quantum communication is today at the forefront of scientific research,” said Prof. Yaron Oz, Head of TAU’s Center for Quantum Science and Technology.
“Governments and giant organizations around the world are involved in a race for quantum encryption capabilities – especially since quantum computers are expected to crack today’s encryption algorithms. It’s an enormous effort – in terms of science, technology, and budgets.”
He said the principles of quantum mechanics mean that if a hostile entity tries to intercept a transmitted message, the message immediately dissipates and the interception attempt is detected, unlike current encryption methods.
The 20cm nanosatellite will, say researchers, be “an important step toward demonstrating reliable quantum communication”.
Prof. Meir Ariel, Head of TAU’s Center for Nanosatellites, said: “The nanosatellite will simultaneously send both optical and radio signals back to earth. However, when the optical device turns toward the optical ground station, the antenna will face in a different direction.
“As a result, a significant portion of the data might be lost. The novelty in this project is the ability of the communication systems installed in both the nanosatellite and the ground station to reconstruct the lost data in real time using smart signal processing algorithms developed at TAU.”