Towards Quantum Communication from Global Navigation Satellite System

L. Calderaro1, C. Agnesi1,D. Dequal2F. Vedovato1, M. Schiavon1, A. Santamato1, V. Luceri1, G. Bianco1,G. Vallone1,3, P. Villoresi1,3
Quantum Sci. Technol. 4, 015012 (2019)
DOI: 10.1088/2058-9565/aaefd4 

1Department of Information Engineering, University of Padova, via Gradenigo 6/B, 35131 Padova, Italy
2Institutionen for systemteknik, Linkopings Universitet, 581 83 Linkoping, Sweden
3Istituto di Fotonica e Nanotecnologie, CNR, Padova, Italy

Satellite-based quantum communication is an invaluable resource for the realization of a quantum network at the global scale. In this regard, the use of satellites well beyond the low Earth orbits gives the advantage of long communication time with a ground station. However, high-orbit satellites pose a great technological challenge due to the high diffraction losses of the optical channel, and the experimental investigation of such quantum channels is still lacking. Here, we report on the first experimental exchange of single photons from Global Navigation Satellite System at a slant distance of 20000 kilometers, by exploiting the retroreflector array mounted on GLONASS satellites. We also observed the predicted temporal spread of the reflected pulses due to the geometrical shape of array. Finally, we estimated the requirements needed for an active source on a satellite, aiming towards quantum communication from GNSS with state-of-the-art technology.