SBIR Phase I: Quantum Key Distribution via Small Satellite

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1842769
Agency Tracking Number: 1842769
Amount: $224,924.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: IT
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2018
Award Year: 2019
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2019-02-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2020-01-31
Small Business Information
1021 HARLAN DR, SAN JOSE, CA, 95129
DUNS: 081227612
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Maxwell Shapiro
 (415) 350-5792
Business Contact
 Patrick Gallagher
Phone: (408) 916-7860
Research Institution
The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project is to develop a practical method for ultra-secure global communication using quantum key distribution (QKD). QKD is an established communications protocol which promises unbreakable encryption via the exchange of single photons, the constituent particles of light. Owing in large part to the lack of a practical way to connect users globally, QKD has not yet been widely deployed. This project aims to demonstrate the viability of high-speed, satellite-to-ground QKD using the low-cost CubeSat platform. If successful, this design will dramatically reduce the initial costs to launch a QKD constellation offering worldwide QKD connectivity, thereby greatly expanding the utility of QKD and driving market growth. Early customers will be the US Government and large businesses who are willing to pay a premium for the ultimate in data security. Government use offers clear societal benefit, as several agencies rely on secure global communications to ensure societal well-being. As technology advances, the network may be used to secure the communications of private citizens. The proposed plan will furthermore develop enabling technologies for future space-based quantum science experiments. This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project will produce designs for a high-speed QKD payload hosted on a CubeSat. The proposed design will take a substantial step forward from the first and only demonstration of satellite-to-ground QKD (Micius, 2017), which relied on technology that is too massive, expensive, and low-throughput for commercial use. Since CubeSats are heavily constrained in size, weight, and power, the major technical challenge will be to miniaturize the payload and reduce its power consumption while simultaneously improving data rates. To address this challenge, the small business will investigate a novel QKD payload concept that pushes the limits of emerging technologies in photonics and microelectromechanical systems. In Phase I, detailed modeling and simulation of candidate payload designs will be used to evaluate the commercial and technical feasibility of the proposed approach, and to select a preliminary design for initial implementation, which will commence in Phase II. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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