A wide spectrum of facilities and computational tools covers the flow range from the low-speed regime of commercial aircraft to the supersonic and hypersonic regime of atmospheric space entry.
The department focuses in particular on the modelling, simulation and experimental validation of atmospheric entry flows and thermal protection systems, including transition to turbulence and stability.
The experimental studies are carried out in its world-class Mach 14, Mach 6 and Inductively Coupled Plasma windtunnels, for which dedicated measurement techniques have been developed, e.g. involving spectroscopic laser techniques.
Recently the department initiated a strong activity on small satellite developments and launching (CubeSat Programme QB50): https://www.qb50.eu
On the computational side the department has developed an extendable software platform (COOLFluiD) for high performance computational flow simulation which incorporates the research on numerical algorithms, advanced physico-chemical and plasma models as well as fluid-structure interaction and conjugate heat transfer.
The facilities of the Institute are renowned and VKI is recognized as a world-class research center of excellence by its peers. As an example, VKI and the European Space Agency (ESA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in November 2011 under which VKI acts as a reference laboratory for ESA. This agreement involves 10 research staff and more than 20 PhD students in a continuous effort devoted to the present space transportation missions and the challenges of the future space explorations.