09/10/20: Transmission stopped after 5 months of in-orbit operations

After 5 months of in-orbit operations, QARMAN stopped transmitting on July 14th, 2020.  No beacon signals have been received since then. Last signals showed increasing onboard temperatures.

Our analyses show that QARMAN experienced a 4-day period of full sunlight at that time, instead of the usual alternating 1h sunlight/30 min eclipse. We are now investigating together with ESA how that would have affected the various subsystems and trying to identify the failure point and associated lessons learned. Of course, we will keep monitoring daily for QARMAN signals until the re-entry (currently estimated for January 2022).
Initially foreseen in July 2020, the re-entry of Qarman has been delayed because the sun is experiencing an unexpected less active phase called ‘solar minimum’. In a solar minimum, the sun is much quieter, meaning less sunspots and energy. Solar ultraviolet radiation decreases, but the effect of this primarily hits the stratosphere and higher altitudes. It causes Earth's atmosphere to shrink slightly, which reduces drag on satellites, like our QARMAN CubeSat.

24/03/20: Successful Phase 2 of Qarman Deployment

This Tuesday 24th of March, the AeroSDS panels of the nano-satellite Qarman have correctly deployed, right on time, as foreseen. VKI has the confirmation that they positioned correctly because the solar panels which were formerly obscured are now receiving plenty of sunlight. With the panels open, Qarman will stabilize itself prior to re-entry.

The QARMAN team is also very happy to report that QARMAN received, acknowledged, and executed commands sent from the VKI ground station.

Next step: re-entry phase around end of August!

ESA is supporting Qarman through the ‘Fly’ element of its long-running General Support Technology Programme, providing early flight opportunities to promising technologies.

We thank the Belgian radio amateurs from Belgium and the world, who relay the data they receive from QARMAN and share their expertise since the beginning of the mission.

19/02/20: Successful in-orbit deployment of Qarman nano-satellite. First signals received at the VKI ground station!

The VKI nano-satellite Qarman has been successfully deployed in orbit from ISS this Wednesday 19 February 2020.

The team is very happy to report that we received QARMAN signals here at VKI ground station! Parameters are nominal, on-board temperature is 19°C and battery voltage is 8.19 V (nearly fully charged).

Let's watch the recording of the deployment of Qarman from ISS :


Qarman, the nano-satellite designed and built at VKI, has been successfully launched from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station on the 5th of December 2019. Watch the replay of the launch: SpaceX 19th Resupply Launch to the International Space Station

QARMAN (Qubesat for Aerothermodynamic Research and Measurements on AblatioN) is the world’s first CubeSat designed to survive atmospheric re-entry. The QARMAN project, funded by the European Space Agency, started in 2013 at the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (VKI).

The aim of the QARMAN mission is to demonstrate the usability of a CubeSat platform as an atmospheric entry vehicle. Spacecraft descending towards a planet with an atmosphere experience very harsh environment including extreme temperatures (several thousand degrees). Such vehicles have special shields to survive these harsh conditions as will QARMAN. After the success of the mission, different entry vehicle configurations (for example using different thermal protection materials) can be tested on board at very low costs for scientific exploration and qualification of future missions in order to provide valuable real flight data. In the long-term, QARMAN successors could also be used as Blackbox to study how materials and satellites degrade when re-entering the atmosphere, in order to reduce the debris falling back on Earth.

QARMAN lifted-off from Cape Canaveral on 5th of December, on-board a Falcon 9, with Dragon carrying it to the International Space Station. A few weeks after reaching the ISS, QARMAN will be deployed into Space and start its mission. All operations will be performed from the VKI ground station. The first weeks will be dedicated to commissioning the subsystems and verifying the good health of QARMAN. Solar panels will then be deployed to increase the drag, thus decelerate QARMAN and initiate its re-entry. After a few months in orbit, the beginning of the re-entry phase will be automatically detected by QARMAN, triggering the data acquisition. Maximum 18 minutes later, the reentry phase is over and data are communicated through Iridium before the final crash of QARMAN. The satellite will not be recovered, but no worries: the casualty risk has been carefully assessed and demonstrated to comply with all international regulations!

The VKI engineers in charge of this project have faced many challenges such as communication between QARMAN and the ground or the resistance of different materials. Such an operation would not have been possible without numerous international and Belgian collaborations, notably with Italy for a full-scale validation test in the CIRA plasma wind tunnel "Scirocco", with France for tests of thermal conditions at ISAE SUPAERO and for the development of the spectrometer with ArianeGroup and CentraleSupElec and with V2i in Liège for vibration tests.


Successful ejection of Qarman from ISS
Live Streaming of Qarman
Reaction of VKI staff during the Live Streaming of Qarman
Qarman with Solar panels
Qarman TPS tested in the VKI Plasmatron
Qarman packed in the Nanoracks Payloads