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!)