Generation and analysis of correlated pairs of photons on board a nanosatellite

Zhongkan Tang, Rakhitha Chandrasekara, Yue Chuan Tan, Cliff Cheng, Luo Sha, Goh Cher Hiang, Daniel K. L. Oi, Alexander Ling

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Satellites carrying sources of entangled photons could establish a global quantum network, enabling private encryption keys between any two points on Earth. Despite numerous proposals, demonstration of space-based quantum systems has been limited due to the cost of traditional satellites. We are using very small spacecraft to accelerate progress. We report the in-orbit operation of a photon pair source aboard a 1.65 kg nanosatellite and demonstrate pair generation and polarization correlation under space conditions. The in-orbit photon correlations exhibit a contrast of 97+/-2%, matching ground-based tests. This pathfinding mission overcomes the challenge of demonstrating in-orbit performance for the components of future entangled photon experiments. Ongoing operation establishes the in-orbit lifetime of these critical components. More generally, this demonstrates the ability for nanosatellites to enable faster progress in space-based research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number054022
Number of pages5
JournalPhysical Review Applied
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2016


  • quantum physics
  • space physics
  • photon pairs
  • global quantum networks
  • nanosatellites

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