Versatile Space Telescope for Quantum Key Distribution

Case ID:

The Versatile CubeSat Telescope (VCT) is a CubeSat-enabled telescope design with an increased aperture and decreased divergence over state-of-the-art systems. It also provides thermal stability, which enhances the signal-to-noise ratio, reduces the error rate, and improves performance. Finally, it can preserve the polarization of received signals to enable applications like free-space quantum key distribution (QKD). 

The purpose of the VCT is to provide a low-cost, high-performance, and mass-producible space telescope that uses diamond-turned rather than polished optics and a fine-pointing system. The system would enable either quantum communications or high-speed conventional laser communications. It also has applications in both astronomy and Earth remote sensing.  

Designing CubeSats requires a balance of optical and structural designs with cost and size to maximize performance in extreme environments. Increasing the size (ex. 6U to 12U) may increase the optical performance, but costs may drastically rise in turn. Recent developments in diamond turning have increased the accessibility of aspheric aluminum mirrors, which enables a cost-effective regime of well-corrected nanosatellite telescopes. 

The global market for small satellites, CubeSats, and quantum cryptography are all forecasted to see high rates of growth during the 2020s due to high demand from commercial, university, government, and military sectors in the United States, China, and Europe. Most relevant state-of-the-art technology, like QKD-enabled CubeSats, are still in the research and development stage. While the market is saturated with a wide range of large and small companies from across the world, it is not developed yet. Laws and regulations regarding this diverse competition in space are likely to be created in the near future. 


  • CubeSats
  • Small space telescopes
  • Quantum key distribution 
  • Signal polarization preservation


  • Thermal stability for improved performance
  • Low manufacturing and transportation costs
  • Increased aperture and decreased divergence over state-of-the-art systems 
  • Preserves the polarization of received signals for various applications like QKD
Patent Information:
Contact For More Information:
Laura Silva
Sr. Licensing Manager, COS
The University of Arizona
Lead Inventor(s):
Ewan Douglas
Daewook Kim