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China launches ‘unhackable’ satellite that destroys messages when intercepted

China launches ‘unhackable’ satellite that destroys messages when intercepted

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px; color: #262626; font-family: Roboto;">The launch took place at 1:40 am in the southwestern Gobi Desert, the official Xinhua news service said, and comes as the US, Japan and others also seek to develop applications for the burgeoning technology.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">Beijing has poured enormous resources into the race, one of several cutting edge projects the world’s second largest economy has pursued as part of its massive national investment in advanced scientific research, on everything from asteroid mining to gene manipulation.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">The satellite -- nicknamed Micius after a 5th century BC Chinese philosopher and scientist -- will be used in experiments intended to prove the viability of quantum technology to communicate over long distances.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">It will also further investigations into some of the more unusual properties of sub-atomic particles, including “quantum entanglement”, Xinhua said.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">The term describes what Albert Einstein described as the “spooky” phenomenon of particles exerting influence on each other at a distance, including the ability for paired particles to mirror each other at faster-than-light speeds.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">Unlike traditional secure communication methods, China’s proposed system uses photons to send the encryption keys necessary to decode information.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">The data contained in the bursts of subatomic particles is impossible to intercept: any attempts at eavesdropping will cause them to self-destruct, Xinhua said, letting users know that their communications have been compromised.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">Scientists have shown the trick can be used to transmit messages over relatively short distances: the current record is around 300 kilometres, according to an article in the journal Nature.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">But technical hurdles have kept long-range communication out of reach.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">A coin from a plane

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">The satellite will attempt to send secure messages between Beijing and Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang in the country’s far west.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">Success will require the satellite is precisely oriented to its earth-bound receiving stations, Xinhua said.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">“It will be like tossing a coin from a plane at 100,000 metres above the sea level exactly into the slot of a rotating piggy bank,” it quoted the project’s chief commander, Wang Jianyu, as saying.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">Developing the new technology is a major goal for Beijing, which included it in its most recent five-year plan, released in March.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">“The newly-launched satellite marks a transition in China’s role -- from a follower in classic information technology (IT) development to one of the leaders guiding future IT achievements,” Xinhua quoted Pan Jianwei, the satellite project’s chief scientist.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">China “can expect a global network of quantum communications to be set up around 2030”, he said.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">Beijing had previously identified the development of quantum technology as a national priority.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">But Edward Snowden’s revelations of spying operations by the US National Security Agency heightened China’s pursuit of spy-proof methods.

<span style="font-size: 15.6px; line-height: 22px;">The country is also one of several working on building the world’s first quantum computer, which would use sub-atomic particles’ properties in processors that can operate at speeds far faster than current technologies allow.

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