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SES, ESA Announce Eagle-1 Quantum Key Distribution Satellite 

By Rachel Jewett | September 22, 2022

An infographic demonstrating plans for Europe’s satellite quantum key distribution system. Photo: ESA/SES

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced Thursday that SES will lead a consortium of 20 companies to develop and launch a secure quantum key distribution (QKD) satellite in 2024 for European secure communications.

SES and partners will build the first sovereign European end-to-end space-based QKD system, with a Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite called Eagle-1, and an operations center in Luxembourg. The consortium will develop the QKD payload, terrestrial optical station, scalable quantum operational networks, and key management system to interface with national quantum communication infrastructures (QCIs). This project will provide mission data to support future EU sovereign quantum secure communications networks.

ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said the Eagle-1 project is toward future European quantum communications that are secure and scalable. 

“European security and sovereignty in a future world of quantum computing is critical to the success of Europe and its member states,” said SES CEO Steve Collar, CEO of SES. “We are proud to leverage our multi-orbit credentials and our innovative platforms and solutions … to advance quantum communications and implement the EAGLE-1 system, which is called to be a cornerstone for the development of secure and sovereign European networks of the future.”

The project is supported by the European Commission and co-funded by ESA contributions from Germany, Luxembourg, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and the Czech Republic under ARTES, as well as the European Commission through Horizon Europe.