Cybersecurity from Space: Canada Invests in Quantum Technology - Inside GNSS

Cybersecurity from Space: Canada Invests in Quantum Technology

Our digital economy depends on keeping data safe from hackers, and cybersecurity is a priority for the Government of Canada. The Canadian Space Agency’s Quantum EncrYption and Science Satellite (QEYSSat) mission will test quantum technology that protects communications in space.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is awarding a contract worth $30 million to Honeywell for the design and implementation phases of the QEYSSat mission, according to today’s press release issued by the CSA.

Current encryption methods are expected to be rendered obsolete within the next decade by the exceptional processing power of quantum computers. Slated for launch in 2022, QEYSSat will demonstrate quantum key distribution (QKD) technology in space. This emerging encryption technology will offer Canada a new, more effective method of securing the transfer of information.

Under this contract, Honeywell will build, test, deliver, provide training for and commission the QEYSSat satellite, which will create a link between ground and space to transmit encryption keys. The work is expected to extend until the end of 2022.

The QEYSSat mission is the culmination of a series of research and technology development activities undertaken by the Institute for Quantum Computing, with support from the Government of Canada. It will bring Canada a step closer to an operational quantum communications service from space, and will advance technology to help meet Canada’s cybersecurity priorities.

The lessons learned from the QEYSSat mission will be applied to develop future operational systems for government and provide safer, more secure access to services for Canadians. Commercial applications will include enhanced security for internet-based activities, as well as daily financial transactions such as ATM banking.

In addition to the safety and security principle of Canada’s Digital Charter, this initiative aligns with the Government of Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan and the new Space Strategy for Canada through enabling future secure communications, as well as enhancing security and sovereignty.

“The QEYSSat mission is another step forward in our government’s plan to foster a Canada where citizens have confidence that their data is safe and privacy is respected. In doing so, the development of these new technologies will also bring tremendous potential to transform markets and build a stronger economy that works for everyone,” The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, stated in the release.

Current quantum encryption technology (QKD), relies on ground fibre-optic cables and is currently limited to a 200-kilometer distance. QEYSSat will seek to demonstrate QKD between a satellite and a ground network as a way to overcome the distance limits.

Through testing and demonstration of the QKD in space, the CSA will provide a government-owned, space-based platform for federal stakeholders and Canada’s scientific community.