In a remote section of the Gobi Desert, China launched the world’s first quantum satellite early on Tuesday morning, and in doing so may have just made the future hacking of communication networks almost impossible.

Chinese state media reported the official launch as technological breakthrough seeking to harness the power of particle physics and in the process build an “unhackable” encrypted communications system.

quantum-1

Nicolas Gisin, a professor and quantum physicist at the University of Geneva, told the Wall Street Journal:

“There’s been a race to produce a quantum satellite, and it is very likely that China is going to win that race… It shows again China’s ability to commit to large and ambitious projects and to realise them.”

If the prototype tests are successful, China will have taken an undeniable leap forward past other countries efforts in the field, and have begun the process of building a worldwide network that can’t be wire tapped or cracked through conventional methods.

The satellite nicknamed after the 5th Century Chinese scientist and philosopher, Micius, main mission is to try and validate the viability of quantum technology in communication over long distances.

The theory behind quantum communications is that the process of entangling photons allows users to send messages securely and at speeds faster than light. Any attempt to ‘hack’ the quantum stream will destroy the contained message and also alert the sender that an attempted hack has been made.

A quantum of Solace (for the logistics of making it all work)

The current problem is one of consistency. While short range quantum communication between two specific points has been tested successfully, variances in atmosphere, gravity, and even distance can disrupt sub atomic quantum messages.

Micius has been tasked with sending secure messages between Beijing and Urumqi, a massive disparate region of desert and mountains in China’s extreme west.

Future implications of quantum

The application for Quantum messaging could become a major defense against hackers, and could in the next few decades become a global standard. Initially though, China will seek to develop the technology for military, financial, and government communications.

Digital arms race?

China is the world’s 2nd biggest economy after the US, so yes.

In recent years, China has begun pouring large amounts of its resources into massive national projects on everything from clean energy to science…even mining asteroids.