By Jasminder S. Sidhu, Thomas Brougham, Duncan McArthur, Roberto G. Pousa, Daniel K. L. Oi.
Submitted to arXiv on 14 December 2020.
Quantum key distribution (QKD) can provide secure means of communication that are robust to general quantum computing attacks. Satellite QKD (SatQKD) presents the means to overcome range limitations in fibre optic-based systems and achieve global coverage but raises a different set of challenges. For low-Earth orbit SatQKD, a major limitation is the restricted time window for quantum signal transmission and highly variable channel loss during a satellite overpass of an optical ground station. Here, we provide a systematic analysis of the finite block size effects on secret key length generation for low latency operation using BB84 weak coherent pulse decoy state protocols. In particular, we look at how the achievable single pass secret key length depends on various system parameters for different overpass geometries and calculate the total long-term-average key length. We find that optimisation of basis bias, pulse probabilities and intensities, and data selection, is crucial for extending the range of satellite trajectories and link efficiencies for which finite-block size keys can be extracted. The results also serve as a guide for system sizing of future SatQKD systems and the performance levels required for sources and detectors.