Finite key performance of satellite quantum key distribution under practical constraints

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Global-scale quantum communication networks will require efficient long-distance distribution of quantum signals. While optical fibre communications are range-limited due to exponential losses in the absence of quantum memories and repeaters, satellites enable intercontinental quantum communications. However, the design of satellite quantum key distribution (SatQKD) systems has unique challenges over terrestrial networks. The typical approach to modelling SatQKD has been to estimate performances with a fully optimised protocol parameter space and with few payload and platform resource limitations. Here, we analyse how practical constraints affect the performance of SatQKD for the Bennett-Brassard 1984 (BB84) weak coherent pulse decoy state protocol with finite key size effects. We consider engineering limitations and trade-offs in mission design including limited in-orbit tunability, quantum random number generation rates and storage, and source intensity uncertainty. We quantify practical SatQKD performance limits to determine the long-term key generation capacity and provide performance benchmarks to support the design of upcoming missions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number210
Number of pages12
JournalCommunications Physics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2023


  • global-scale quantum communication networks
  • quantum signals
  • satellites
  • quantum technologies
  • satellite-based quantum key distribution (SatQKD)


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