The Space Research Institute (Institut für Weltraumforschung, IWF) in Graz has focused on the physics of space plasmas, planetary atmospheres and exoplanets for 50 years. With about 100 staff members from 20 nations it is one of the largest institutes of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, ÖAW). IWF develops and builds space-qualified instruments and analyzes and interprets the data returned by them.
Presently, the institute is involved in 21 international space missions, led by the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA or national space agencies in Japan, Russia, China, and Korea. The missions cover fleets of satellites in near-Earth space, the observation of the Sun, and the exploration of planets such as Mercury, Jupiter, and extrasolar planets. From building the instruments to analyzing their data, these projects last 10-30 years.
The institute's core engineering expertise is in building magnetometers and on-board computers, as well as in satellite laser ranging to satellites and space debris, which is performed at a station operated by IWF at the Lustbühel Observatory. In terms of science, IWF concentrates on dynamical processes in space plasma physics and on the upper atmospheres of planets and exoplanets.