Thursday, April 7, 2022

There's Gotta Be a Ham on This Team!

SEAQUE will be hosted on the International Space
Station by the Nanoracks Bishop airlock. The blue-and-
gold brackets attached to the side of the airlock are for
external payloads. The technology demonstration will
be installed at one of those sites. (NASA photo)
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is coordinating a project involving scientists from three universities and two commercial companies to test a device that JPL says could set the stage for a future global quantum network …and we're pretty sure there's at least one ham on the team that's developing it. The milk-carton-sized technology demonstration experiment, scheduled for launch to the International Space Station later this year, is named the Space Entanglement and Annealing Quantum Experiment, abbreviated by the acronym SEAQUE (say it out loud and you'll understand the connection!).

Quantum computers have the potential of operating millions of times faster than conventional computers, according to JPL, and SEAQUE will test two new communication technologies to create quantum networks in the space environment. Building such a network would require the use of space-based nodes – essentially quantum repeaters – to securely receive and transmit quantum data from and to the ground using free-space optical communications. This experiment would test a technique for producing and detecting pairs of entangled photons which would carry the quantum data. The photon source on SEAQUE would split individual photons into entangled "daughter photons," according to JPL, and measuring one of them immediately results in changes in the measurement of the other, even if they are widely separated from each other. The photon source would use a waveguide – familiar to microwave-active hams – to split and transmit the entangled photons.

The second experiment would involve the use of an internal laser to repair damage caused by high-energy radiation in the space environment. It will use a process known as annealing to "bubble away" radiation-caused defects and reduce unwanted noise in the detector.

The SEAQUE module will be attached to the outside of the ISS, mounted on brackets already installed on the Bishop airlock, which is owned and operated by Nanoracks, a commercial participant in this experiment. The earliest possible launch date for SEAQUE is this coming August.

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