SES, ESA and the European Commission team up to deliver a satellite-based quantum cryptography system

LUXEMBOURG, September 22, 2022 — A consortium of 20 European companies led by SES, with support from the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission, will design, develop, launch and operate end-to-end the EAGLE- 1. end system for secure quantum key distribution (QKD), enabling in-orbit validation and demonstration of next-generation cybersecurity across Europe.

The groundbreaking partnership between ESA and a consortium led by SES, with the support of the European Commission, puts Europe at the forefront of space innovation with satellite QKD. Together with its European partners, SES will build Europe’s first end-to-end sovereign space-based QKD system, develop and operate a dedicated Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite and build a state-of-the-art QKD operations center in Luxembourg . The project is co-funded by the ESA contribution from Germany, Luxembourg, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and the Czech Republic within the framework of ARTES, as well as the European Commission within the framework of Horizon Europe.

Using the EAGLE-1 system, ESA and European Union Member States will perform the first stage of demonstration and validation of QKD technologies from low Earth orbit to the ground. The EAGLE-1 project will provide valuable mission data for next-generation quantum communication infrastructures (QCIs), contributing for example to EU plans to deploy sovereign and autonomous cross-border quantum secure communication networks.

The EAGLE-1 satellite is due to be launched in 2024 and will then complete a three-year mission in orbit supported by the European Commission. During this operational phase, the satellite will allow governments and institutions of the European Union as well as critical commercial sectors to quickly access long-range QKD to pave the way towards an EU constellation allowing transmissions of ultra-secure data.

To implement EAGLE-1’s ultra-secure cryptographic key exchange system, the consortium will develop the QKD payload, optical ground station, scalable quantum operational networks and key management system to interface with national QCIs.

“European space innovation has taken a strong boost both from a technological point of view and in terms of commercialization,” said Josef Aschbacher, Director General of ESA. “This allows us to develop and implement scalable next-generation projects in space in critical areas such as secure communication, next-generation networks and cybersecurity. Led by ESA, partially funded by the European Commission and implemented by SES, EAGLE-1 is a major step towards the realization of Europe’s secure and scalable quantum communications infrastructure.

Elodie Viau, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, said: “In today’s increasingly interconnected world, securing information is paramount. Strong encryption keys and technologies to enable their secure distribution are critical to this business. We are proud to forge this partnership between ESA and an SES-led consortium to create the highly secure and autonomous EAGLE-1 quantum key distribution system. ESA enables the European space industry to succeed by uniting the industry around large-scale programs, achieving competitive leaps forward.

“European security and sovereignty in a future world of quantum computing are essential to the success of Europe and its member states,” said Steve Collar, CEO of SES. “We are proud to leverage our multi-orbit credentials and our innovative platforms and solutions in partnership with ESA, the European Commission and the Government of Luxembourg to advance quantum communications and implement the EAGLE-1 system, which is called to be the cornerstone of the development of secure and sovereign European networks of the future.

For more information, visit the EAGLE-1 press room.

Source: SES

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