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China Launches First Quantum Satellite

China launched the world's first quantum satellite. It was launched in Gansu Province, China, August 16, 2016. (PHOTO China Daily/via REUTERS)
China Launches First Quantum Satellite
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China has launched the first satellite using quantum technology to send communications back to earth. Quantum technology will make these communications safe from hackers.

A rocket named the Long March-2D launched the satellite into space. The launch site was in China’s northwest Gobi Desert.

The 600-plus-kilogram satellite is named Micius after a Chinese philosopher and scientist who lived 2,500 years ago.

Micius will circle the earth every 90 minutes.

It will do this after entering a sun-synchronous orbit 500 kilometers above the earth. Sun-synchronous orbit means it will always be in sunlight. This type of orbit is useful for weather, imaging and spy satellites.

China’s Xinhua news agency said that during its two year mission, Micius will establish 'hack-proof' communications. It will do this by using un-crackable codes. It explained that a quantum photon, or subatomic particle, is impossible to wiretap, intercept, hack or crack.

Xinhua said the satellite’s first test will be communicating between Beijing and the Xinjiang capital, Urumqi.

Major step forward for China

Morris Jones is an Australian who studies the Chinese space program. He told VOA that this satellite is a major step forward for China.

According to the Wall Street Journal quantum technology can have military applications. Scientists in the United States, Europe and Japan are also trying to use this technology.

China, however, has made quantum physics an important part of its five-year economic development plan.

I’m Anna Matteo.

Victor Beattie wrote this story for VOA News. Anna Matteo adapted it for Learning English. Pete Heinlein was the editor.


Words in This Story

quantum – n. physics : the smallest amount of many forms of energy (such as light)

sun-synchronous physics : an orbit in which the satellite's orbital plane is at a fixed orientation to the sun

hack-proof – adj. secure from hackers; impossible to hack into.

photon – n. physics : a tiny particle of light or electromagnetic radiation

wiretap – v. to place a device on (someone's phone) in order to secretly listen to telephone calls

intercept – v. to stop and take someone or something that is going from one place to another place before that person or thing gets there

hack – v. to gain access to a computer illegally

crack – v. to puzzle out and expose, solve, or reveal the mystery of something