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Universities Space Research Association to Lead a DARPA Project on Quantum Computing

Columbia, MD and Washington DC—March 26, 2020. Universities Space Research Association (USRA) today announced that DARPA has awarded the organization and its partners Rigetti Computing and the NASA Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (QuAIL) to work as a team to advance the state of art in quantum optimization. USRA, as the prime contractor of the award, will manage the collaboration.

A Rigetti Quantum Processing Unit (QPU) based on superconducting qubits. Image courtesy Rigetti Computing. Photo by Justin Fantl.

A Rigetti Quantum Processing Unit (QPU) based on superconducting qubits. Image courtesy: Rigetti Computing. Photo by Justin Fantl.

The collaboration will focus on developing a superconducting quantum processor, hardware aware software and custom algorithms that take direct advantage of the hardware advances to solve scheduling and asset allocation problems. In addition, the team will design methods for benchmarking the hardware against classical computers to determine quantum advantage.

USRA Senior Vice President Bernie Seery noted, “This is a very exciting public-private partnership for the development of forefront quantum computing technology and the algorithms that will be used to address pressing, strategically significant challenges. We are delighted to receive this award and look forward to working with our partner institutions to deliver value to DARPA.”

In particular, the work will target scheduling problems whose complexity goes beyond what has been done so far with the quantum approximate optimization algorithm (QAOA). USRA’s Research Institute for Advanced Computer Science (RIACS) has been working on quantum algorithms for planning and scheduling for NASA QuAIL since 2012. “The innovations on quantum gates performed by Rigetti coupled perfectly with the recent research ideas at QuAIL, enabling an unprecedented hardware-theory co-design opportunity” explains Dr. Davide Venturelli, USRA Associate Director for Quantum Computing and project PI for USRA. Understanding how to use quantum computers for scheduling applications could have important implications for national security such as real time strategic asset deployment, as well as commercial applications including global supply chain management, network optimizations or vehicle routing.

The grant is a part of the DARPA Optimization with Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum program (ONISQ). The goal of this program is to establish that quantum information processing using NISQ devices has a quantitative advantage for solving real-world-combinatorial optimization problems using the QAOA method.

About USRA

Founded in 1969, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences at the request of the U.S. Government, the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is a nonprofit corporation chartered to advance space-related science, technology and engineering. USRA operates scientific institutes and facilities, and conducts other major research and educational programs, under Federal funding. USRA engages the university community and employs in-house scientific leadership, innovative research and development, and project management expertise. More information about USRA is available at www.usra.edu.

About the Research Institute for Advanced Computer Science

USRA manages and operates the Research Institute for Advanced Computer Science which focuses on interdisciplinary research and challenging applications associated with NASA’s mission to develop innovative information systems and other technologies. To implement this approach research staff undertake collaborative projects with research groups at NASA and elsewhere , integrating computer science with other disciplines to support NASA’s mission. More information about the Quantum Computing group is available at https://riacs.usra.edu/quantum/.

About Rigetti Computing

Rigetti Computing is an integrated quantum systems company. Through our Quantum Cloud Services platform, Rigetti machines can be integrated into any public, private or hybrid cloud. Rigetti serves customers in finance, insurance, government, defense, and energy with custom software and full-stack quantum computing solutions focused on simulation, optimization, and machine learning applications. The company is based in Berkeley, CA with offices in Fremont, CA, Washington, D.C., London, and Australia.