(SpaceNews) The United States and five other countries are banding together with the United Kingdom to develop a satellite-based quantum technology encryption network.
The Federated Quantum System (FQS) will be based on the one British startup Arqit is developing for commercial customers, using quantum technology breakthroughs to guard against increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.
Those commercial partners include British telco BT, U.S. aerospace giant Northrop Grumman, Japanese investment firm Sumitomo, Italian technology group Leonardo and Austrian quantum technology startup QTL. The Canadian and Belgian subsidiaries of aerospace company Honeywell and defense technology firm Qinetiq, respectively, have also joined.
The cost of the project including an initial satellite in 2023 is expected to be more than $70 million, funded by the consortium’s government and commercial partners.
Arqit is lining up Virgin Orbit to launch the first FQS satellites in 2023 from the U.K., after it orbits a pair of spacecraft for its commercial counterpart that year.
It is unclear what the European Union will make of Italy, Belgium and Austria’s participation in Arqit’s FQS. The three countries — and all EU members apart from Ireland — have signed up to plans to develop a European quantum communications network called EuroQCI.