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Curiosity Series Research Edition: Lively discussions, new connections and exciting new ideas

18 november 2021
Curiosity Series Research Edition: Lively discussions, new connections and exciting new ideas

Last month we had our first Curiosity event, focused on research, with the theme of Quantum payload on space and how to realise more opportunities in that field. We brought together a diverse group of about twenty researchers to inspire and create new connections and therewith new innovations, together with ESA ESTEC and LDE universities. We all experienced it as a major success! 

With this series of events called Curiosity we want to stimulate and motivate collaborations and knowledge sharing. This Curiosity Series was focused on researchers and PhD’s from universities, companies, and ESA. There will be in the near future many more events coming up with another focus. This Research edition ESA ESTEC was bringing in a challenge to discuss with other researchers from the Dutch ecosystem. The challenge was presented by Eamonn Murphy, about quantum experiments with the potential of low-cost solutions for quantum research that takes place in space. 

So how can we use quantum sensor technology for research in space? And how can it possibly be flown into space in small form and accelerate trajectories on demonstration missions? During the discussion it turned out that there are definitively possibilities to do this, with relatively small satellites. An area where the Netherlands is actively involved in.   

Lively discussions made for new connections between the researchers from universities, such as Nijmegen, Leiden, Delft, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and ESA ESTEC and companies such as TNO. It was a small but actively involved group that turned out to have a lot in common, but most didn’t know each other yet. The discussions turned out to be a good starting point for new collaborations. Three new challenges came forward, and one will be the challenge for the next event in January, the Curiosity Series Research II. 

 

What would be your favourite for a next event? 

 

Interesting ideas and interactions from our Curiosity Series Research Edition of October 14.

Yinglu Tang from TU Delft

How to build radiation resistant spacecraft together? A collaborative effort from system engineers, physicists and material scientists is needed to ensure radiation resistance of space materials and systems.


Rudolf Saathof from TU Delft

Usually, instrumentation for ground-breaking scientific missions is complex. The engineering of the entire system often takes very long. Because these projects are long and costly, an additional wish/requirement is that of zero-failure. Instead of this approach, it is desirable to change the mission design. Instead of focusing on 1 big project which aims to launch 1 big system, it could be cut in parts. With these smaller part separate missions could be formulated with smaller spacecrafts. Important for these missions is that besides functional tests, e.g. is the system working in space, to define a science question for this smaller mission. The use of an instrument on a smaller spacecraft could yield answers on different questions compared to the same instrument on the larger spacecraft for the ground-breaking scientific mission.

 

Bob Dirks from TNO and BQB

Europe has ambitious plans to build the Quantum Communication Infrastructure (QCI), a network with which quantum information can be shared between distant nodes. A first application is Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), the distribution of symmetric encryption keys for highly secure communication. Further in the future, the network will also be used to, among other applications, perform distributed quantum computing by connecting distant quantum computers. Due to the losses present in optical fibres, the span of ground-based quantum networks is limited to several hundreds of kilometres. To get pan-European, and eventually worldwide, coverage, satellites are needed to overcome these large distances. In this way, local ground-based quantum networks can be coupled by means of satellites.

The NL space campus could become one of the Quantum Gateways to Space: literally and symbolically. Literally, by building an optical telescope on the campus via which quantum information can be received and sent from and to satellites while connected to a ground-based fibre network. Symbolically, by acting as a gateway to quantum via companies, facilities and labs on the campus and available expertise at ESA/ESTEC.


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