QUARC: Quantum Research Cubesat—A Constellation for Quantum Communication

Luca Mazzarella*, Christopher E Lowe, David Lowndes, Siddarth Koduru Joshi, Steve Greenland, Doug McNeil, Cassandra Mercury, Malcolm Macdonald, John Rarity, Daniel Kuan Li Oi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
106 Downloads (Pure)


Quantum key distribution (QKD) offers future proof security based on fundamental laws
of physics. Long-distance QKD spanning regions such as the United Kingdom (UK) may employ a
constellation of satellites. Small satellites, CubeSats in particular, in low Earth orbit are a relatively
low-cost alternative to traditional, large platforms. They allow the deployment of a large number of
spacecrafts, ensuring greater coverage and mitigating some of the risk associated with availability
due to cloud cover. We present our mission analysis showing how a constellation comprising 15
low-cost 6U CubeSats can be used to form a secure communication backbone for ground-based and
metropolitan networks across the UK. We have estimated the monthly key rates at 43 sites across the
UK, incorporating local meteorological data, atmospheric channel modelling and orbital parameters.
We have optimized the constellation topology for rapid revisit and thus low-latency key distribution.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)7
Number of pages25
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2020


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