It's one big step forward for China's space program.
China has achieved a major milestone in its quest toward a greater presence in space with the launch of the world’s first quantum satellite, allowing it to have communications between space and the ground that are essentially hacker-proof, state media reported.
The program was pushed ahead by President Xi Jinping as a key effort to help China cement itself as a major power in space. It’s called the Quantum Experiments at Space Scale, or QUESS, and it was launched in the remove province of Gansu in northwestern China early on Tuesday. QUESS will conduct a two-year mission to establish “hack-proof” quantum communication with uncrackable keys.
Xinhua, China’s official news agency, says that quantum communication is impossible to wiretap or intercept, enabling seecure communications. It is intended to particularly aid in communications between Beijing and Urumqi, which is a violence-prone region in the far west of China where Islamist insurgents have been causing headaches for the Chinese government.
But quantum communications also holds great promise for China’s defense in general, and it has caused some concern amongst the U.S. Defense Department over China’s growing space ambitions.
“The newly-launched satellite marks a transition in China’s role — from a follower in classic information technology (IT) development to one of the leaders guiding future IT achievements,” said Pan Jianwei, chief scientist of QUESS project with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), in the Xinhua report.