DARPA, NASA Target Quantum Applications

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The U.S. military and NASA are embracing quantum computing technology for a range of communication and sensor applications as they seek to take advantage of reductions in size, weight and power as well as huge increases in bandwidth and finer sensors.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is investing in efforts to integrate quantum technologies into RF antennas to improve the sensitivity of military sensor systems. These upgrades would also increase access to bandwidth, as would future NASA laser communications demonstrations.

“The development of space optical networks will allow us to move to quantum networking from space – we expect this to happen in 2030,” said Badri Younes, NASA deputy assistant administrator for space communications and navigation , during a recent briefing on upcoming laser communications. demonstration missions.

“Optical communication is a stepping stone towards much better performing and more robust technologies” such as quantum networks, “added Younes.

Meanwhile, DARPA, one of the main funders of quantum research since the 1990s, is moving closer to the commissioning of quantum technologies with the award of antenna design contracts to BAE Systems. One of the goals is to use quantum technology to reduce the size and number of antennas integrated into RF sensor systems.

Quantum aperture technology is touted as a decoupling of the antenna size from the wavelength of the incoming signal, thereby reducing the antenna size and the number of components on military sensors.

“While still in the early stages of development, quantum sensing relies on fundamentally different physics than conventional antennas,” said Julia MacDonough, Product Line Manager at BAE Systems. “It can allow us to work around traditional aperture design limitations for sensitivity and size.”

A trio of DARPA contracts for quantum detection awarded earlier this year are worth $ 6.5 million, BAE said. The company will team up with quantum and sensing computer developer ColdQuanta of Boulder, Colo., As part of the defense agency’s quantum initiatives.

BAE, Merrimack, NH, said this week that it will serve as prime contractor for another DARPA effort focused on quantum apertures. This effort aims to demonstrate the ability to receive modulated RF signals over a wide spectral range through a single receiver to provide “peak sensitivity,” according to a solicitation released last year by DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office.

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