Quantum Leap: Canada's Pioneering Quantum Satellite

QEYSSat Image Source: CSA GC


The University of Waterloo, in collaboration with the Institute for Quantum Computing, spearheads Canada's foray into quantum communication with the Quantum EncrYption and Science Satellite. Scheduled for a 2025 launch, QEYSSat, led by graduate student Kimia Mohammadi, focuses on ground-to-space quantum communication using innovative quantum key distribution. This groundbreaking mission marks a significant milestone for Canadian technology, positioning the country as a leader in secure quantum communication.


In a transformative endeavor, the University of Waterloo, in conjunction with the Institute for Quantum Computing, embarks on a pioneering mission to secure the future of communication with Canada's first quantum satellite – the Quantum EncrYption and Science Satellite (QEYSSat).

Set for launch in 2025, QEYSSat represents a significant leap in Canada's technological landscape. At the forefront of this mission is Kimia Mohammadi, a dedicated PhD student in the University of Waterloo's Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC). Her involvement underscores the innovative spirit of graduate students navigating the complex terrain of emerging security risks in our increasingly digital world.

The driving force behind QEYSSat is Dr. Thomas Jennewein, Mohammadi's graduate supervisor and a professor in Waterloo's Department of Physics and Astronomy. A visionary in quantum research, Dr. Jennewein aspires to create a global quantum internet, exploring secure satellite-based quantum communications and unraveling fundamental aspects of quantum physics.

The cornerstone of QEYSSat lies in the utilization of "quantum key distribution." This technique involves generating encrypted keys using quantum signals sent between the satellite and Earth. Leveraging a quantum mechanics principle – the unobservable observation – these cryptographic keys become secure due to the inability to copy quantum states without detection. Mohammadi and the QEYSSat team leverage this property to ensure the integrity and security of the transmitted quantum key.

Quantum signals, inherently secure but challenging to transmit over large distances through traditional methods like fiber optic cables, find a solution in satellite-based communication. Satellites, free from the constraints of signal repetition and amplification, prove to be the ideal conduit for Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) signals over extended distances.

The QEYSSat project operates from the Institute for Quantum Computing, Canada's quantum ecosystem hub. Ground stations at the University of Waterloo and the Canadian Space Agency headquarters will communicate with QEYSSat, generating quantum signals using photons of light. This setup allows flexibility for the research teams to adapt and update technologies, ensuring the project's longevity and adaptability.

Kimia Mohammadi's role extends to ensuring the Waterloo ground station's seamless communication with the satellite, a task she approaches with passion and dedication. Her previous experience in building a telescope transceiver during her master's degree proves invaluable in this effort.

QEYSSat emerges as an interdisciplinary endeavor, involving experts in physics, engineering, and collaboration with industry partners such as the Canadian Space Agency and Honeywell. The project aligns with Canada's strategic focus on quantum literacy and readiness, especially as governments worldwide acknowledge the vulnerability of current encryption methods in the face of impending quantum computers.

Looking ahead, Mohammadi and Dr. Jennewein explore future satellite scenarios in QEYSSat 2.0, identifying technological bottlenecks and paving the way for a quantum internet across Canada. The QEYSSat mission not only demonstrates quantum key distribution and secure satellite communication but positions Canada as a quantum-ready leader, prioritizing national security and sovereignty.


Canada's journey into quantum communication reaches new heights with the QEYSSat mission. Spearheaded by the University of Waterloo and the Institute for Quantum Computing, this project, led by graduate student Kimia Mohammadi, showcases the nation's commitment to secure communication in the quantum age. With Dr. Thomas Jennewein's vision, QEYSSat not only pioneers quantum key distribution but lays the foundation for a secure quantum internet. As Canada embraces a quantum-ready future, QEYSSat emerges as a beacon of innovation and national pride, setting the stage for transformative advancements in secure communication.

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