Chapter 6

Atmospheric Entry Mechanics


The equations of motion for spacecraft entry into the atmosphere are derived and the general characteristics of gliding trajectories are discussed. The importance of the spacecraft ballistic coefficient and earth’s atmospheric density profile in limiting the effects of deceleration on human physiology are combined in defining an entry trajectory corridor in terms of a restricted range of acceptable dynamic pressure level. A similar corridor for assuring safe heating levels for entering spacecraft is also defined. Detailed studies of entry dynamics are divided into three categories: ballistic (zero-lift), low lift-to-drag ratio (L/D), and moderate L/D. This division may be illustrated by meteor and ...

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