#1694: RocketRicochet

Space vehicles returning to Earth’s atmosphere can perform a skip re-entry (although it has never been undertaken with a manned craft).

In future, I imagine the trend towards UAVs will extend to space drones (USVs?).

Today’s invention is for any such vehicles whose contents can tolerate thermal cycling more than rapid deceleration.

A drone would be made in a cylindrical shape and fitted with peripheral rockets. On initial re-entry, these would fire, back-spinning the cylinder about its axis and causing it to skip off the atmosphere in a highly controlled way (just as Barnes Wallis’s bouncing bombs did in the Ruhr valley).

Using this technique, a very large number of bounces could be made, so that a comparatively gentle re-entry and highly accurate splashdown could be achieved.

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