Israeli quantum communications satellite launched by SpaceX

A new nanosatellite developed by researchers at Tel Aviv University was launched into orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 spacecraft from California’s Vandenberg Space Base on Tuesday.

The 20-centimeter nanosatellite, dubbed TAU-SAT3, is Israel’s first satellite built to advance space-based optical and quantum communication research and is “an important step toward demonstrating reliable quantum communication,” according to the researchers.

Quantum communication is a technological field that aims to enable fast and secure transfer of files and data and to make information security completely secure against unauthorized access in a world haunted by constant hacker threats.

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Professor Yaron Oz, director of the Center for Quantum Science and Technology at the University of Toronto, noted that the emergence of quantum computers should make it possible to “break current encryption algorithms” and expose information such as personal medical and financial records and emails. and WhatsApp messages.

Quantum computing uses quantum mechanics to quickly solve problems too complex for classical computers by processing large amounts of data.

“The principles of quantum mechanics enable an unconditionally secure encryption method,” Professor Oz said. “As soon as a hostile entity attempts to intercept the transmitted message, it immediately disintegrates. »

A Tel Aviv University research team is responsible for developing Israel’s first nanosatellite to advance research in optical and quantum communications from space. (Credit: Tel Aviv University)

“Furthermore, interception attempts are detected, unlike current encryption methods, intrusions are not detected,” Professor Oz added.

At an altitude of 550 kilometers, TAU-SAT3 will orbit the Earth for about five years to perform a series of scientific missions by sending back optical and radio communication signals to an optical ground station mounted on the roof of a building. University campus.

“This is the first ground-based optical station in Israel and one of the few in the world that can attach, track and collect data from a nanosatellite smaller than a pixel as seen from the ground,” he said. Noam Eliaz, Dean of the Fleischman Faculty of Engineering, Tel Aviv University.

Developed at Tel Aviv University’s Fleischman Faculty of Engineering, TAU-SAT3 is equipped with an optical device just a few centimeters long and onboard batteries manufactured by Israel’s Epsilor.

“As the satellite passes over Israel, the device will emit light at different wavelengths, and the ground optical station’s telescope will identify, lock onto, and track the tiny flash,” the official explained. Elias. “However, when the optical device is looking at the optical ground station, the antenna will point in a different direction. »

“As a result, a significant part of the data can be lost. The novelty of this project lies in the ability of the communication systems installed on both the nanosatellite and the ground station to recover lost data in real time using intelligent signal processing algorithms developed at Tel Aviv University,” Professor Eliaz explained.

The nanosatellite is one of a series of three satellites launched by Tel Aviv University in less than three years, joining the global space revolution in which research is making its way to civilian institutions and business.

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