On 31st August 2018, the European Space Agency via its Directorate of Telecommunication and Integrated Applications signed a contract with UK based start-up Arqit Ltd, to develop the first European Quantum Key Distribution Satellite (QKDSat).
QKDSat is a highly innovative project, the first of its kind, which will validate Quantum Key Distribution via satellite technologies. The contract also covers the development of service delivery through a pre-operational deployment, prior to an envisaged full global commercial service via multiple satellites in the near future. The installation of further Ground Optical Communications Terminals to support the projected market needs is also foreseen in the agreement, which was signed at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Center, Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
The industrial consortium led by ArQit is composed of European leaders in their field, such as QinetiQ of Belgium, BT of United Kingdom and Fraunhoffer and Mynaric of Germany.
The contract will enable the industry of ESA Member States to take the lead in an important, new and growing field of secure communications. The programme is expected to result in considerable additional and recurring business for the satellite operator, ground segment providers and prime manufacturers, by putting European Industry in a strong position to capitalise on their acquired expertise and to target the global market of secure communications.