China launches the first quantum communications satellite – and what is that, exactly?

Congratulations are in order for China: by launching the world’s first quantum communications satellite, the country has achieved an interesting — if somewhat difficult to explain — milestone in space and cryptography. Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS), nicknamed Micius after the philosopher, lifted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 1:40 AM local time (late yesterday in the U.S.) and is currently maneuvering itself into a sun-synchronous orbit at 500 km.

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