The vacuum plasma spraying process has to be optimized for each task in order to obtain the required mechanical and electrical properties for the desired coatings. This paper deals with the characterization of plasma and powder spray jets at deposition conditions for Solid Oxide Fuel Cells layers. First, DC plasma jets under soft vacuum conditions are characterized by using an enthalpy probe system and a Schlieren optic installation. The influence of the inner contour of the plasma spray torch anode on the temperature and velocity profiles as well on the shape of the plasma jets are investigated. Second, Laser Doppler Anemometry (LDA) measurements were performed for (8 mol %) yttria stabilized zirconia (YSZ) powder (-20+5 µm) spray jets for two chamber pressures, different argon carrier gas flow rates and injection modes. The results show that a M3 Laval nozzle and a F4V nozzle with conical inner profile allow to obtain a larger plasma volume and a more uniform plasma than with a standard F4 anode nozzle resulting in a better treatment of solid particles in the plasma. LDA measurements, using a M3 anode nozzle, show that the penetration and the acceleration of particles in the core of the plasma jet have their optimum at 10 kPa with an inclined injection with respect to the plasma jet axis for a 3.75 slpm carrier gas flow rate.