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In polarization-encoded free-space quantum communications, a transmitter on a satellite and a receiver in a ground station each have a respective polarization zero direction, by which they encode and decode every polarization quantum bit required for a quantum communication protocol. In order to complete the protocol, the ground-based receiver needs to track and compensate for the polarization zero direction of the satellite-based transmitter. Expressions satisfied by amplitudes of the s-polarization component and the p-polarization component are derived based on a two-mirror model, and a condition satisfied by the reflection coefficients of the two mirrors is given. A polarization tracking principle is analyzed for satellite-to-ground quantum communications, and quantum key encoding and decoding principles based on polarization tracking are given. A half-wave-plate-based dynamic polarization-basis compensation scheme is proposed in this paper, and this scheme is proved to be suitable for satellite-to-ground and intersatellite quantum communications.