UK’s Quantum Communications Hub Satellite R&D Mission Awarded to ISISPACE Group


UK Quantum Communications Hub Satellite IOD Mission ISISPACE Group Quantum Encryption Keys from space

The Quantum Communications Hub has selected the Dutch company ISISPACE Group (ISISPACE) as the provider of satellite systems and services in support of the Hub’s In Orbit Demonstration (IOD) mission to demonstrate the distribution of quantum encryption keys from space.  The IOD will be the culmination of a core Hub development programme of UK science and technology around quantum secure communication between satellite and the ground.

The programme, part of the Hub’s strategic objective of delivering quantum security at all distance scales, includes the development of novel quantum signal transmitters as payloads for the satellite, and quantum receivers for a dedicated Hub Optical Ground Station (OGS). The development programme, led by the University of York, is a collaboration of Hub academic partners: the Universities of Bristol, Heriot-Watt, Strathclyde and the Hub lead York, together with Science and Technology Facilities Council’s RAL Space Facility.

ISISPACE has been selected as the provider of the satellite platform for the IOD mission. The shoebox-sized satellite (a 12U CubeSat) will use light and infrared signals, as well as a radio channel, to communicate with the quantum receiver positioned at the Hub’s OGS site in Scotland. ISISPACE has extensive experience in enabling and supporting innovative small satellite missions, including integration, launch and operations required for the Hub IOD.

12U Platform UK Quantum Communications Hub Satellite

Due to be launched in early 2024, the Hub IOD will facilitate experiments and tests central to a demonstration of the science and technology required to overcome the distance limitations of terrestrial, fibre-based communications networks. The IOD, one of three* currently under development with substantial UK input and investment, will be a significant contribution to the strategic objective of large-scale, commercial quantum-secure communications. The work forms part of core technology development within the UK Quantum Communications Hub, led by the University of York, and funded by the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme.

*The other two projects, which also include a number of Hub academic and industrial partners, are Speqtre, a UK/Singapore bilateral project, and ROKS (Responsive Operations for Key Services), a UK industry-led mission.

Hub Director, Tim Spiller: “Quantum-enabled satellites have the potential to support future security on a global scale. Our Hub CubeSat IOD represents an important development step for worldwide quantum communications. We look forward to working with ISISPACE to deliver this mission”

ISISPACE Group CEO, Jeroen Rotteveel: “As a Dutch satellite-as-a-service provider, we are proud to have been awarded this IOD mission. Secure communications are a crucial need for public and private organisations worldwide, and it is great to demonstrate how satellites play a major role in fulfilling that need. Building on our 16-year heritage, every day we strive to offer our customers the most disruptive solutions, and this 12U quantum communications mission is a perfect example of such disruptive, enabling technology. We are looking forward to supporting the Hub in this outstanding satellite mission.”

Liam Blackwell, Deputy Director for Quantum Technologies at EPSRC:” I am very pleased to see this next step being taken in the development of this technology, which offers the prospects of quantum secured communications on a global scale. It is a testament to the EPSRC’s commitment to both enhancing academic research capability, and accelerating future commercial exploitation based upon it, in the field of quantum technologies.”