The group is a member of the Strathclyde Space Initiative: Space Science and Applications sub-division. We have research activities developing quantum experiments that can be launched on nanosatellite platforms, so-called CubeSats. CubeSats offer an inexpensive and rapid route to space-based operations in a 1 to 10kg fully functioning spacecraft. This is an ideal platform from which to perform an iterative and incremental development programme of advanced space-based quantum technologies and fundamental physics. A primer on Satellite Quantum Key Distribution can be found here (MP4, 40 mins).
In collaboration with the Centre for Quantum Technologies in Singapore, we have developed the SPEQS (small photon entangling quantum source) experiment for launch on the QB50 mission on a 2U CubeSat being built by the National University of Singapore. SPEQS (shown on the right) has demonstrated the deployment and operation of a compact, low-power, lightweight, and robust source of entangled photon pairs into low Earth orbit during the Galassia (2015-16) and SpooQy-1 (2019) missions.
SPEQS was initially tested successfully in two stratospheric balloon launches (shown left) reaching altitudes in excess of 37.5km. An on-board polarization analyser measured pair correlations and show that they violate a Bell inequality, verifying its operation. A correlated photon pair source was launched into low-Earth orbit on the Galassia CubeSat in 2015 and demonstrated successful operations in 2016. A fully entangled source of photon pairs was launched and operated on the SpooQy-1 CubeSat in 2019. A followup mission QKD CubeSat will demonstrate transmission of entangled photons between a CubeSat and Earth.
Strathclyde is a member of the Quantum Technology Hub in Quantum Communications which is developing advanced satellite QKD technologies with the goal of in-orbit demonstration.
In the longer term, new effects may be observed under extreme conditions of velocity and acceleration that could affect our ability to manipulate quantum systems. Such relativistic quantum information effects might be probed by extremely sensitive experiments in near Earth orbit. One such proposal would detect the degradation of entanglement associated with changes of orbit by one half of an entangled Bose Einstein condensate. With rapid miniaturization of the relevant components, this may be achieved with small satellites.