China has successfully launched the world’s first quantum-communications satellite, which has arguably propelled the country ahead of its global rivals in the quantum arms race.

The satellite is set to establish hack-proof communications impervious to cyber security threats. Today’s launch was the beginning of China’s ambitious national program to create a network of quantum-secure communication, by transmitting undecipherable keys between ground and space.

The breakthrough project was led by Professor Pan Jian-Wei from the University of Science and Technology in China, in collaboration with the University of Vienna, where he was a former PhD graduate supervised by Professor Anton Zeilinger.

Once in orbit, the satellite will transmit entangled photons to ground bases in Beijing and Vienna to create a secret key used to access information within the transmission.

If the satellite’s launch and orbit is successful, China plans to launch more satellites to complete the first global network of quantum-communication.

Image: Zuma Press