China managed to put into orbit QUESS scientific satellite. Spacecraft will perform tests of next generation communication system which will utilize quantum technology for data transfer.
Satellite was named “Mozi” and is result of the cooperation between Austria and China. Main objective of the program is creating communication system highly resistant for jamming or attempts of hacking. Spacecraft was launched on atop of Long March 2D rocket from Launch Pad 603 (Launch Complex 43) at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Rocket lifted off at 17:40 GMT and delivered satellite to orbit with apogee at 584 km, perigee at 488 km and inclination at 97.4° (it was originally planned that satellite will reach Sun-synchronous circular orbit with an altitude of 600 km and and inclination at 97.79°). Weighing 600 kg QUESS will remain in space for two years.
QUESS history starts in 2001, when two science institutes, Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information from Vienna and Chinese Academy of Science (CAS), started to work independently on quantum communication system. Austrian scientists managed to send quantum state or qubit (string of 1 and 0 representing quantum states of particles) to distance of 144 km. Unfortunately qubit was sent via optical fiber and for further tests it was necessary to use satellite. Austrian scientists were trying to establish cooperation with ESA for designing satellite for further trials. ESA seemed not to be interested in participating in such experiment, so Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information started to look for partners outside Europe. CAS, which was also developing own program of quantum communication, was able to offer financial and technological support in creating research satellite and after signing agreement work on QUESS started in 2011. CAS created satellite with weight at 600 kg powered by two deployable solar arrays; cost of the whole mission including satellite was $100 million. Mozi during its mission lasting for two years, will perform series of science experiments with utilization of onboard instruments like: quantum key communicator, quantum entangled transmitter, quantum entangled photon source and quantum control processor. Following experiments are planned: Quantum Key Distribution from Satellite to Ground (to test possibility of quantum communication from space to Earth), Global Scale Quantum Communication Network (to test usage of the satellite as repeater between two ground stations), Quantum Entanglement Distribution from Satellite to two ground stations (test communication for distance greater than 1200 km) and Quantum Teleportation from Ground to Satellite.
In this mission CNSA decided to utilize Long March 2D rocket. Rocket was developed and is manufactured by Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST); it is based on two stages liquid fueled rocket remaining in use since 1992. First stage is equipped with four YF-21C engines (fueled with highly toxic N2O4 and UDMH) with thrust at 2,961.6 kN. First stage length is 27.91 m, diameter at 3.35 m and weight at 182000 kg. Second stage is powered by combined propulsion: one YF-22C as main engine and four YF-23C for stabilization. Thrust of YF-22C is at 742.04 kN and stabilizing thrust at 47.1 kN. Stage is long for 10.9 m with diameter at 3.35 m and weighs 52700 kg. Rocket offers SSO payload at 1300 kg and for LEO 3500 kg.