China launched the first-ever quantum satellite in an effort to help develop a hack-proof communications system. China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported that QUESS is designed to establish ‘hack-proof’ quantum communications by transmitting uncrackable keys from space to the ground, and provide insights into the strangest phenomenon in quantum physics — quantum entanglement. “Entangled” particles are linked to each other such that a change in one somehow affects the others, even though they are separated by billions of miles of space.
QUESS will send messages to ground stations using entangled photons. Such a system is theoretically impossible to hack. In addition, any attempts to eavesdrop would be picked up via an induced change in the photons’ state. The 1,320-lb. (600 kilograms) QUESS satellite is designed to circle Earth at an altitude of about 310 miles (500 kilometers), completing one lap every 90 minutes. QUESS will also test out “quantum teleportation,” beaming precise information about the states of particles from the satellite to a ground station in Tibet.
The satellite is nicknamed “Micius,” after a Chinese scientist who conducted ground breaking optical experiments in the 5th century B.C. Many nations are working to make quantum communication a reality, but China is the first to launch a satellite dedicated to developing the technology.