Quantum key distribution (QKD) has the potential to improve communications security by offering cryptographic keys whose security relies on the fundamental properties of quantum physics. The use of a trusted quantum receiver on an orbiting satellite is the most practical near-term solution to the challenge of achieving long-distance (global-scale) QKD, currently limited to a few hundred kilometers on the ground. This scenario presents unique challenges, such as high photon losses and restricted classical data transmission and processing power due to the limitations of a typical satellite platform. Here we demonstrate the feasibility of such a system by implementing a QKD protocol, with optical transmission and full post-processing, in the high-loss regime using minimized computing hardware at the receiver. Employing weak coherent pulses with decoy states, we demonstrate the production of secure key bits at up to 56.5 dB of photon loss. We further illustrate the feasibility of a satellite uplink by generating a secure key while experimentally emulating the varying losses predicted for realistic low-Earth-orbit satellite passes at 600 km altitude. With a 76 MHz source and including finite-size analysis, we extract 3374 bits of a secure key from the best pass. We also illustrate the potential benefit of combining multiple passes together: while one suboptimal "upper-quartile" pass produces no finite-sized key with our source, the combination of three such passes allows us to extract 165 bits of a secure key. Alternatively, we find that by increasing the signal rate to 300 MHz it would be possible to extract 21 570 bits of a secure finite-sized key in just a single upper-quartile pass.
|Number of pages||12|
|Journal||Physical Review A - Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics|
|Publication status||Published - 30 Nov 2015|