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I was reading the article on J002E3, and it mentions that most other S-IVB have entered the atmosphere and mostly burned until reduced to relatively small pieces. They did, however, enter the atmosphere with less energy than J002E3 would have coming from a Solar orbit and (I assume) entered on more or less tangential trajectories.

The question is, would such a stage of a rocket burn more or less, if it were to enter head-on into the atmosphere?

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    $\begingroup$ The steeper the entry, the higher the peak heating, but the shorter the heating period. I believe something like an S-IVB stage would burn completely regardless of entry angle. $\endgroup$ Feb 9 '18 at 1:25

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