Quantum Computing in Space: Revolutionizing Technology Beyond Earth

Discover how we could revolutionize AI, reduce data centers, and address space debris challenges.

Quantum Computing in Space: Revolutionizing Technology Beyond Earth
Quantum Satellite with Solar Sails - Powered by MidJourney AI

Sometimes life throws at you things that may make you wonder if free-will is real or not. And there's different streams of thought that you could dive into forever, that make your head spin. But what if neither was true, and what if both were true... all at once. That's what qubits are. They are pieces of quantum information, where true and false are happening all at once. And to work with this information you need quantum computers.

The Challenges and Potential of Quantum Computing

To play with qubits like this though, quantum computers need special care. They need lots of energy, sensitive equipment and ridiculous amounts of cooling. We're talking temperatures close to absolute zero. Colder than the vacuum of space, and colder than the reception you get when you tell a physics joke at a party.

Any slight disturbance, like a change in temperature or even a passing cosmic ray, can cause them to lose their quantum state. To solve these problems, you need to create sophisticated shielding and error correction. Both of which are complex and energy-expensive.

So what would happen if someone took this expensive and sensitive equipment, wrapped it with next-generation shielding technology, and shot it into space?

The vacuum of space has inherent isolation, low temperatures, and there's no earthquakes. It could offer a more conducive environment for these delicate quantum systems.

The Vision: Quantum Computers in Space

Before we dive deeper into this subject, let's get a better idea for where we are today. You may or may not be aware of the horde of zombie satellites in our orbit. These defunct satellites provide no value, and increase risk of collisions. On top of that they make operating other satellites difficult. If we don't get the problem of space debris under control, we may soon find ourselves unable to have a space program at all.

We are trying to solve multiple problems at the same time here. Create a more sustainable planet, while giving everyone access to quantum computing power. And we seek to do this by making quantum computing easier, more efficient and more powerful. So let's explore how we can get there.

The Process: Building, Installing and Powering Quantum Computers in Space

First we need to get quantum computers into space. For this, we'll have to assume that we solved the shielding problem, because space radiation will be the new big challenge to make this possible. This matter is even more difficult, because while we improve the shielding, we still want to leverage the vacuum of space for cooling.

These complicated devices, so we can't just shoot or toss them into space. We'll have to build them in space. To do this, we'd have to create additional pods for the international space station. These pods would hold specialized manufacturing equipment designed to assemble the quantum computers. Once they are assembled, we will need to get them mounted on the satellites. To do this, we would need space-drones that operate on solar power.

According to my research, the average quantum computer runs between 32-65qubits. If we don't need to account for the cooling, that would be about 6W per qubit. A defunct satellite shouldn't need more than about 30W of energy for its operations. If the same satellite has solar panels of about 1 square meter, that should account for about 300W of power. Thus we should be able to fit a 32 qubit quantum computer on it, and still have some power left over.

Bigger satellites have more capable solar panels, and should also be able to handle this challenge easier.

The Future: Boosting AI and Reducing Data-Centers

If we get this right, we could boost the power of AI systems, while reducing the amount of computing data-centers across the globe.We could equip everyone with simpler devices at home that only need satellite access to function. This in turn allows us to use fewer resources and would make it worthwhile to invest in more robust products.

It may sound ambitious, but the UAE is aiming to engage in asteroid mining in the coming century. Retrofitting old satellites could represent a low hanging fruit with untold potential.

The Challenges: Heat, Placement and Seismic Events

Now there are some things that could be quite challenging, and may even remain impossible to tackle for some time. While it can get cold in space, if an object is exposed to direct sunlight, it can also get hot enough for some space bacon. (~250F / ~ 121C).

Perhaps a different location could work. There are points in space, known as Lagrange points, where the gravitational forces of two large bodies (like Earth and the Moon, or Earth and the Sun) balance the centrifugal force felt by a smaller object (like a space station). There are five such points in the Earth-Sun system, and they could potentially be stable locations for quantum computer stations. However, these points are quite distant, which could complicate construction, maintenance, and communication.

That makes placement of the devices a non-trivial matter. We could explore the shade of the dark side of the moon. Alas, that puts us back to the problem of seismic events. Shallow moonquakes can go up to 5.5 Richter scale. Which isn't nice for something as delicate as qubits.

The Solution: A Relay Race in Space

How about we go back to keeping all the satellites where they are, and create a relay race. We use the satellites on the hot side to beam energy around and through links to the satellites on the cool side. During this time the dark side satellites perform quantum computations, while the hot sided ones act as solar farms. This solution would require the lowest incision.


Of course, this is all speculative at this point. But sometimes the most ambitious ideas can lead to the most exciting breakthroughs. In the end, the challenges of quantum computing and space debris may seem insurmountable. Thinking creatively though and pushing the boundaries of what's possible, we may just find the solutions we're looking for. And who knows? Maybe one day, you'll be reading this blog on a device powered by a quantum computer in space.

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