Capitol Momentum - Jan 2023

ESA To Build Quantum Communication Satellites For European Quantum Communications Network

Image courtesy of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Today’s interconnected world is ever more vulnerable to cyberattacks, emphasising the importance of secure encryption to protect Europe’s critical infrastructure and communications. An agreement forged today between the European Commission (EC) and the European Space Agency (ESA) marks the first steps towards creating a highly secure, pan-European quantum communication infrastructure.

The development of terrestrial components of the quantum communication infrastructure will be under the responsibility of the EC’s Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG Connect).

It would comprise a series of quantum communication networks, linking institutional users and their critical infrastructures, and sensitive communication and data sites in Europe.

The space-based component, known as SAGA (Security And cryptoGrAphic mission), would be developed under ESA’s responsibility and consists of satellite quantum communication systems with pan-European reach.

Magali Vaissiere, Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications at ESA, said: “Only by stimulating innovation can Europe place itself at the forefront of technology, and nowhere is this more critical than in the field of secure communications.

“It is our shared ambition to demonstrate that space-based solutions can provide a vital part of the European institutional quantum communications infrastructure. ESA is therefore making available its expertise in satellite and optical communications, in order to meet the technological challenges of delivering quantum key distribution services, which are not achievable by terrestrial solutions alone.”

Roberto Viola, Director-General of DG Connect, said: “Quantum communication has the potential to protect the EU’s sensitive data and digital infrastructure for years to come.

“Today DG Connect is signing a technical agreement with the European Space Agency to prepare a secure end-to-end quantum communication infrastructure that, besides cybersecurity, could be used for many useful applications and services, such as digital signatures, authentication, and clock synchronisation.

“Work on quantum communication will be key in the Digital Europe programme as well as in the Horizon Europe programme.”

Besides boosting European autonomy and scientific leadership in this strategic field, creating a quantum communications infrastructure fits into ESA’s strategy of helping to develop new business opportunities for European companies, by stimulating the development of innovative technologies and systems. ESA’s programme of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) supports such innovation in the development of new products, services and applications, including SAGA as part of the strategy for Space Systems for Safety and Security (4S).


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