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

Tang, Zhongkan and Chandrasekara, Rakhitha and Tan, Yue Chuan and Cheng, Cliff and Sha, Luo and Hiang, Goh Cher and Oi, Daniel K. L. and Ling, Alexander (2016) Generation and analysis of correlated pairs of photons on board a nanosatellite. Physical Review Applied, 5 (5). ISSN 2331-7019

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    Abstract

    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.