The von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (VKI) is a non-profit international educational and scientific organization, hosting three departments (aeronautics and aerospace, environmental and applied fluid dynamics, and turbomachinery & propulsion). It provides post-graduate education in fluid dynamics and encourages "training in research through research". The von Karman Institute undertakes and promotes research in the field of fluid dynamics. It possesses about fifty different wind tunnels, turbomachinery and other specialized test facilities, some of which are unique or the largest in the world. A core competence is the design and qualification of reentry thermal protection systems using the industry standard plasma wind tunnel Plasmatron. Extensive research on experimental, computational and theoretical aspects of gas and liquid flows is carried under the direction of the faculty and research engineers, sponsored mainly by governmental and international agencies as well as industries.
The VKI is involved in the instrumentation of all ESA reentry space craft such as the Atmospheric Reentry Demonstrator (ARD), European eXPErimental Reentry Testbed (EXPERT), the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) and has started in 2010 to design, end-to-end, its own miniaturized reentry vehicle called Qarman. It is also charged with the Thermal Protection Subsystem testing of the ESA mini-reentry vehicle ATV5-BUC. As of 2011, the VKI is charged with the management of the QB50 mission consisting of the launch of two test satellites called precursors and later the 50 satellites being the main objectives of the project.