The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has signed a $30 million deal with American multinational Honeywell for the design and implementation of a quantum encryption satelitte mission in space.

Findings from the QEYSSat mission will be used to develop future operational systems and cybersecurity mechanisms for the government.

The aim of the Quantum Encryption and Science Satellite (QEYSSat) mission is to validate quantum key distribution (QKD) in space. QKD is a type of technology that generates almost unbreakable encryption codes, and could potentially provide Canada with secure communications in the age of quantum computing. Under this new contract, Honeywell will manufacture, test, supply, and commission the QEYSSat satellite. The work is expected to extend until the end of 2022.

“The QEYSSat mission is another step forward in our government’s plan to foster a Canada where citizens have confidence that their data is safe and privacy is respected,” said Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. “In doing so, the development of these new technologies will also bring tremendous potential to transform markets and build a stronger economy that works for everyone.”

The government said present-day encryption methods are slated to be outpaced by quantum computers within the next decade. QKD could offer a more effective method of securing the transfer of information.

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The QEYSSat mission is the result of a series of research and technology development activities assumed by the Institute for Quantum Computing, located at the University of Waterloo. The institute is part of a coalition of research organizations called the Quantum Valley Ideas Lab, which recently received about $20 million from a collaborative arrangement between IBM and several universities.

Through QEYSSat’s space demonstration, photons will be pushed through a laser link from a ground station to a microsatellite. This satellite will use QKD methods to establish a key that will be directed to a second ground station. This trial will allow scientists to study how QKD behaves in space, and lay the groundwork for a global network supporting the exchange of quantum keys over long distances.

Findings from the QEYSSat mission will be used to develop future operational systems for the government. The technology will have commercial applications within enhanced security for internet-based activities as well as daily financial transactions such as ATM banking.

The government said this project aligns with Canada’s Digital Charter, revealed by Minister Bains last month, though didn’t expand on how. The initiative also aligns with the federal government’s new Space Strategy for Canada.

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