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Arianespace selected by SES to launch EAGLE-1 QKD satellite

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SES has chosen Arianespace to launch its EAGLE-1 satellite, which will support the end-to-end secure Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) system for Europe.

The EAGLE-1 satellite will be launched into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for SES by Arianespace on a Vega C rocket from French Guiana as early as Q4 of 2024. The EAGLE-1 project is comprised of satellite and ground infrastructure and is developed by SES and its consortium of 20 European partners, with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission support.

“Building the EAGLE-1 end-to-end system for secure data transmission and validating the long-distance Quantum Key Distribution technology is an innovative project that will benefit the EU Member States,” said Ruy Pinto, chief technology officer at SES.

“We have been working with Arianespace for decades to deliver our satellites into space and are delighted for them to be onboard to launch the EAGLE-1 satellite into orbit.”

Under the agreement entered into with ESA, SES and its partners will design, develop, launch and operate a satellite-based end-to-end QKD system to test and validate space-based secure transmission of cryptographic keys.

It will be the first European sovereign space-based QKD system and will include the dedicated LEO EAGLE-1 satellite and QKD operations centre in Luxembourg. In the scope of European Quantum Communication Infrastructure (EuroQCI) Initiative, the EAGLE-1 satellite will enable early access, validation, and integration of space-based QKD for EU Member States.

“We are delighted and honored by this renewed mark of confidence from the leading global content connectivity service provider SES,” said Marino Fragnito, director of Arianespace’s Vega business unit.

“Over the last 38 years, Arianespace has carried out 42 launches for its longstanding partner, and Vega C will now continue this successful track record. It is a great honour for us to support our customer’s ambitions and to be part of this mission that aims at implementing Europe’s satellite-enabled cybersecurity technology.”

Once launched, the EAGLE-1 satellite will complete three years of in-orbit mission supported by the European Commission. During this operational phase, the satellite will allow European Union governments and institutions, as well as critical business sectors, early access to long-distance QKD laying the foundation for an EU constellation enabling ultra-secure data transmissions.