What I mean by lithocapture is an orbital transfer maneuver used to reduce the velocity of a spacecraft from a hyperbolic trajectory to an elliptical orbit around the targeted celestial body where the periapsis of the hyperbolic trajectory just barely contacts the surface of the celestial body. The sliding impact would reduce orbital energy putting the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit, periapsis would then be raised above the surface by traditional means.

Is this strategy something that has ever been seriously considered by the spaceflight community? Or is it to crazy/unpredictable to ever have serious consideration? If it has been considered, are there in designs for how it would be accomplished?

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    $\begingroup$ It is potentially a great WEAPON idea :). $\endgroup$ – Chris B. Behrens Feb 20 '18 at 19:04
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    $\begingroup$ How spherical of an object are you trying to hit? Skidding into a 5m tall hill at orbital speeds would be quite the violent encounter! $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Feb 20 '18 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ Hard to prove a negative, but I can't imagine it's been seriously considered. You'd have to use a sort of "drag chain" or anchor rather than risk the spacecraft itself, and it would have to be awfully damn long... $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Feb 20 '18 at 19:45
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    $\begingroup$ Rephrased: Lithocapture = Controlled crash. Lots of uncontrolled lithocaptures. $\endgroup$ – geoffc Feb 21 '18 at 0:09
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    $\begingroup$ I suppose if there were a runway, a Touch-and-go landing might qualify. If the body were very low mass (like a Death Star or a cube-shaped planet or small asteroid like B-612) the orbital velocity would be slow enough that conventional wheel braking could be used. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 21 '18 at 1:12

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