China launches satellite to establish 'hack-proof' communications between space and the ground
Chinese tourists look at the launch pad after China's first manned space flight blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the northwestern province of Gansu Reuters

China launched the world's first quantum satellite on Tuesday to establish "hack-proof" communications between space and the ground, the state media said.

The official Xinhua news agency said the Quantum Experiments at Space Scale, or QUESS, satellite was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the remote northwestern province of Gansu in the early hours of Tuesday.

"In its two-year mission, QUESS is designed to establish 'hack-proof' quantum communications by transmitting uncrackable keys from space to the ground," Xinhua said.

It added: "Quantum communication boasts ultra-high security as a quantum photon can neither be separated nor duplicated. It is hence impossible to wiretap, intercept or crack the information transmitted through it."

Xinhua referred to the western region of Xinjiang, the violence-prone area of China and said the satellite will enable secure communications between Beijing and Urumqi. This might resolve some issues in battling the Islamist insurgency.

"The newly-launched satellite marks a transition in China's role - from a follower in classic information technology development to one of the leaders guiding future achievements," Pan Jianwei, the project's chief scientist, told the agency.

Recently, President Xi Jinping urged China to establish itself as a space power and hence this latest advance in an ambitious space programme is of immense priority.