Universities Space Research Association (USRA) today announced the start of operations for phase-2 of DARPA’s Optimization with Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum devices (ONISQ) program. This award follows the ONISQ phase 1 launch in 2020, in which USRA was selected to lead the “Scheduling Applications with Advanced Mixers” (SAAM) project, in collaboration with Rigetti Computing and, through DARPA, under DARPA-NASA under Interagency agreement (IAA) 8839 Annex 114, with the NASA Quantum AI Laboratory.

The project will continue to employ Rigetti Computing quantum processors, including the company’s recently announced 80-qubit system, for the purpose of increasing the quantum computing capabilities available to program variational quantum algorithms developed by the team.

The ONISQ program challenges each team to develop quantum optimization applications that will be impacting the U.S. military capabilities in the future. Bernie Seery, Senior VP of Technology at USRA said, “We at USRA highly value our strategic partnership with our colleagues at Rigetti and NASA QuAIL and look forward to executing on our increasingly challenging Phase 2 milestones”.

Davide Venturelli, Associate Director for Quantum and Principal Investigator of the award added, “The challenge is to advance theory, hardware and benchmarking to bridge the gap between academic understanding of NISQ algorithms and their actual operational performance”.

In the next two and a half years the team will continue to test and evaluate these solvers using operational metrics, leveraging internal resources as well as the large amount of literature and products developed by the scientific and private sector community on benchmarking and detecting quantum advantage. The collaboration has currently produced more than ten scientific papers, published or presented at international conferences or currently under review. The ONISQ program also is an important part of the tight collaboration of USRA with NASA under the NASA Academics Mission Service Contract NNA16BD14C.

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. It  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 https://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/.

See associated press releases at Rigetti and NASA.


Suraiya Farukhi, Ph.D.


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