An Israeli quantum communications satellite launched by Space X

A new nanosatellite developed by researchers at Tel Aviv University was launched into orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 space launch vehicle from Vandenberg Space Base, California on Tuesday.

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

Quantum communication is a technological field that aims to enable the fast and secure transfer of files and data and that aims to make information security completely impervious to unauthorized access in a world haunted by the constant threat of -hack.

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

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

“Principle of quantum mechanics allows for an unconditionally secure method of encryption,” said Prof. oz. “As soon as a hostile entity attempts to intercept a transmitted message, it is immediately lost. »

The Tel Aviv University research group in charge of building Israel’s first nanosatellite to advance research in optical and quantum communications from space. (Credit: Tel Aviv University)

“In addition, the interception attempt is detected, unlike current encryption methods, where interceptions remain undetected,” added Prof. oz.

At an altitude of 550 kilometers, TAU-SAT3 will orbit the Earth for about five years to carry out several scientific missions while transmitting optical and radio communication signals back to an optical earth station installed on the roof of a building. from the university’s Tel Aviv campus.

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

TAU-SAT3, developed at Tel Aviv University’s Fleischman Faculty of Engineering, is equipped with an optical device just a few centimeters long and on-board batteries made by the Israeli company Epsilor that will power it for a lifetime its in orbit.

“As the satellite passes over Israel, the device will emit light at different wavelengths, and the ground station’s optical telescope will recognize the small flash, lock on to it, and track it,” the official explained. . Prof. Elias. “However, when the optical device faces the optical ground station, the antenna will be pointed in a different direction. »

“As a result, large portions of data may be lost. The novelty of this project lies in the ability of communication systems installed on both nanosatellites and ground stations to reconstruct lost data in real time using intelligent signal processing algorithms developed at the university. of Tel Aviv,” explained Prof. Eliaz.

The nanosatellite is one of a series of three satellites launched by Tel Aviv University in less than three years, joining the global revolution in space where research is opening up to civilian institutions and businesses.

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