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Stoke Space Technologies (https://www.stokespace.com/) will send fuel through the heat shield of its capsule to keep it from heating up. They actually mentioned that they are more concerned that the heat shield might freeze rather than burn up. If the heat shield will be cold during reentry, will there still be a massive “flame“ surrounding the capsule?

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  • $\begingroup$ Please provide a link to a description of the heat shield. What you describe doesn't make sense. Your links just go to generic company pages. $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2023 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ Do you have a time hack in the video for those who don't care to watch the whole thing? $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2023 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble It might take a bit, but I can take another look into it. $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2023 at 13:37
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    $\begingroup$ From what I saw it starts at 9:05 min in and ends around 15:10 min $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2023 at 13:44
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    $\begingroup$ That video states at 11:00 that the air will be heated to a plasma, just like @antzi said in their answer. It shows the "flames"! $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2023 at 13:59

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Short answer: yes. The "flame" is not produced by combustion in the sense that the heat shield is burning away, but rather the air itself is turning into plasma due to the extreme heat of the air being compressed by the object.

Think about it: the space shuttle had plasma, despite not having an ablative heat shield.

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    $\begingroup$ to extend this a little: the shock front is almost completely insulated from the entering body. No matter how cold that body is (and I think that was the point of the question, not about combustion), there's basically no convection or conduction between it and the pile of air that it's moving through, and it's the pile of air that's turning into plasma. $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Feb 17, 2023 at 16:50

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