Data security is a critically important issue in digital banking, business, telecommunications, energy, as well as government and healthcare records, where keeping people’s data safe is paramount. With ever more powerful computers, and now quantum computers that could potentially break security, there is a need for digital security to keep ahead of this risk. Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), also known as quantum cryptography, is an advanced method to maintain this security advantage, where digital security keys that need to be kept private (known as secret keys) use quantum technologies to share and distribute the keys securely.

Using QKD technologies with a spacecraft enables ultra-secure global communications for a vast range of business and public services. Doing so with such a small spacecraft as a CubeSat extends the capability further, whilst providing opportunities for significant cost reductions by using the CubeSat form factor.

The Amplified Quantum Key Distribution (AQKD) Project was funded by Innovate UK and was aimed at assessing the feasibility of using CubeSats to deliver QKD services. The core principle was that CubeSats would not in themselves deliver a full service but would augment other services such as ground-based networks or constellations of larger satellites.

The project investigated both the commercial feasibility of the service and to a lesser extent the technical feasibility.  During the course of the Amplified Quantum Key Distribution project, the company secured a number of follow on projects, namely the Responsive Operations and Key Services (ROKS) CubeSat mission (IOD-6), the Quantum Space Technology Payload (QSTP), and the Computing for Autonomous and Secure Satellite Applications project (CASSA).