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I gather that the Virgin Galactic planes use feathered reentry systems with a maximum velocity of about 1.4 Mach, or about .5 km/s. I understand this won't work from full orbital speed, 7km/s, because the friction is too great for the feathered system to be effective. Does anyone know what is the maximum possible velocity (for Earth's atmosphere) at which such a reentry system could be effective? Wondering, that is, if it would work for higher suborbital flights, or for orbital flights initially slowed down by some other braking system.

(Love the first comment, btw--I should've expected that!)

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    $\begingroup$ European or African? $\endgroup$ – Joe L. Feb 19 '16 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ Assuming earth entry? $\endgroup$ – ThePlanMan Feb 19 '16 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ The conversion between speed and Mach number is not constant with altitude, though it won't change enough to mitigate such a small value on reentry. There would need to be a pre-braking system prior to the feathered method. $\endgroup$ – honeste_vivere Feb 1 '18 at 14:36

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