Quantum Optics for Space Platforms

William Morong, Alexander Ling and Daniel Oi

The idea of building a space-based quantum network is appealing, but there are many challenges. A new model for low-cost satellites is bringing global quantum communication a step closer to reality.



Experimental physicists generally prize having complete control over the laboratory environment above all else. In our quest for ever-more precise results, even the slightest stray variable can mean ruin. So, as our team of quantum physicists cruised through the German countryside last May to track a weather balloon, we encountered what would normally be considered a worst-case scenario: The free-flying balloon carried a quantum optics experiment that had reached an altitude of 37.5 km and was now falling to the ground at a speed of 6 m/s with the aid of a parachute, and recovery was based on our ability to track faint radio beacons.

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