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Quantum Technologies

Quantum Technology for Space

Quantum mechanics is both a pillar of modern physics and a powerful tool to explore its boundaries. Over the past century our evolving understanding and control of quantum mechanical effects has allowed us to probe and manipulate the fundamental building blocks of the world around us in increasingly sophisticated ways.

Key enabling technologies have followed, such as lasers, transistors, solar cells and atomic clocks, that form the foundation on which many elements of our modern society are built. Recent progress on robustly exploiting quantum effects, such as entanglement and superposition, has led to the development of quantum technologies, that enable the processing of quantum information in various ways - quantum computing, sensing, simulation, cryptography and communication - and have the potential for far-reaching impact on our society and economy.

Parallel developments in space science and technology mean that the space environment, with its unique vantage and conditions, provides a powerful framework for novel applications of these technologies, as well as for tests of the foundations of physics.

Within this topical cluster you can find the different Discovery element quantum technology related activities listed. The aim of the cluster is to bring together researchers across activities that relate to quantum technologies to explore the synergies with space science and spur research on new and innovative scientific and technical concepts. It is related to several ongoing and past activities within ESA with the same goal.

Quantum Technology Cross-Cutting Initiative

Quantum technologies and innovative concepts for quantum information processing have been the subject of ESA research activities since 2002. The Quantum Technology Cross Cutting Initiative (QT-CCI) will build on this heritage and coordinate future ESA quantum technology activities with a large ESA-wide consultative process, and with a very close coordination with the needs of Industry, Research and Science. The implementation will later be executed in the most appropriate ESA programmes. This initiative will bridge different programmes, technical disciplines and technology levels, encouraging external partnerships.

The main QT-CCI objectives are:

  • Identify and support the strategic interest of ESA member states, industry and academia.
  • Stimulate ESA internal and external collaboration.
  • Boost activities to raise TRL; implement in-orbit validation/demonstration (IOV/IOD) missions; increase research, development and testing capabilities; demonstrate applications and services.
  • Provide increased visibility (internal and external) on quantum activities for space.

Quantum Information Processing Campaign

Quantum computing has the potential to improve performance, decrease computational costs and solve previously intractable problems. In particular, it could become a key capability for demanding tasks such as data storage and retrieval, image processing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the optimisation or simulation of complex systems; ESA’s Agenda 2025 highlights quantum computing as key for translating big data into smart information and services.

The Quantum Information Processing campaign was a call for ideas focussing on novel quantum information processing technologies or major advancements in known concepts that could be applied to ESA's activities. Activities that arose out of this call can be found in this topical cluster and also on the Open Space Innovation Platform (OSIP) at this link.