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SES-led EAGLE-1 Onboards TNO and Airbus to Deliver Ground Station for Quantum Key Distribution

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Insider Brief

  • The SES-led consortium of European companies is joined by TNO and Airbus Netherlands B.V., to design and build an optical ground station.
  • The optical ground station for EAGLE-1 represents a highly advanced and complex system which will be able to receive quantum encryption keys from the EAGLE-1 satellite.
  • The system will have a core a system that integrates fast adaptive optics, accurate mirrors, a robust fiber coupling, a novel laser beacon system, and a stabilised telescope.

PRESS RELEASE — The SES-led consortium of European companies, responsible for development of the quantum secure space-based EAGLE-1 system and working in close collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), is joined by TNO and Airbus Netherlands B.V., to design and build an optical ground station for the mission. The contract was signed by the partners at the Space Tech Expo in Bremen.

The optical ground station for EAGLE-1 represents a highly advanced and complex system which will be able to receive quantum encryption keys from the EAGLE-1 satellite, and will have at its core a system that integrates fast adaptive optics, accurate mirrors, a robust fiber coupling, a novel laser beacon system, and a stabilised telescope.

Collaboration

TNO and Airbus Netherlands B.V. will lead the collaboration to design and build the optical ground station, where TNO is responsible for the design, the adaptive optics and overall system engineering, and the Airbus team in the Netherlands will develop the support technologies, control platform, and implementation. The collaboration is jointly funded by the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) and NXTGEN HIGHTECH. The organisations are joined by:

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  • Officina Stellare (OFS) responsible for the telescope and dome design
  • Celestia-STS who will be designing the optical digital modem in collaboration with TNO and TESAT
  • Demcon who will deliver the design of the wave front sensor, a critical component for the adaptive optics

Co-funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission (EC), together with the space agencies of Germany, Luxembourg, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and the Czech Republic, and the industry, the EAGLE-1 programme will demonstrate the feasibility of quantum key distribution (QKD) technology via satellite within the EU and beyond, enabling next generation cybersecurity for the Member States. It will also provide valuable mission data for the future deployment of a secure quantum communication infrastructure for the EU (EuroQCI).

“EAGLE-1 is yet another example of how Europe can leverage its expertise in space and satellite industries and bring together partners from various parts of the continent to push the technology and innovation boundaries. With these new partners, Europe is one step closer to securing an end-to-end solution for quantum communications,” said Milton Torres, Chief Technology Officer of SES.

“We’re excited about this cooperation. By combining TNO’s expertise in free space optics and quantum, we can contribute to the future of secure communication networks for Europe. This development will strengthen the position of Europe, the Netherlands and our partners in a global emerging value chain,” said Kees Buijsrogge, Director TNO Space.

Rob Postma, Managing Director of Airbus Netherlands B.V.: “This contract marks the beginning of the development of a promising product for the laser satcom market. In parallel, we are preparing the next steps in industrialising the ground station for the European quantum communication infrastructure.”

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Matt Swayne

With a several-decades long background in journalism and communications, Matt Swayne has worked as a science communicator for an R1 university for more than 12 years, specializing in translating high tech and deep tech for the general audience. He has served as a writer, editor and analyst at The Quantum Insider since its inception. In addition to his service as a science communicator, Matt also develops courses to improve the media and communications skills of scientists and has taught courses. [email protected]

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