Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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The phrase 'crumpled heap' comes to mind.

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Space capsule self-righting system

Based on cats
(+3, -3)
  [vote for,

The linked article suggests cats can fall from potentially infinite heights and survive. I’m sure 8th would have approved of testing that idea by dropping cats from higher and higher elevations, but that’s a different matter.

Spacecraft returning from orbit or deep space employ a number of methods to orient themselves for reentry snd soft landings. Reaction jets, grid fins and retrorockets, drogue parachute before the main opens, aerodynamic braking.

I propose instead a segmented body design that can mimic a cat, twisting parts against itself to rotate into the ideal position before a gliding, parachute, or rocket assisted soft landing. The closest thing I can think of among current designs are Scaled Composites’ Spaceship One & Two, which rotate their tail sections into a shuttlecock configuration - but that’s still relying entirely on aerodynamics. A “cat twist” maneuver wouldn’t rely on aerodynamics or reaction jets - and could orient the ship even before hitting the atmosphere*.

Of course, more research is needed and we can probably continue studying until we run out of cats.

* before anyone mentions reaction wheels, I’m aware these exist and could do the same thing. but where’s the fun in throwing a reaction wheel off of a tall building?

a1, Sep 14 2022

Inspiration for this idea https://www.theatla...lex-physics/671424/
[a1, Sep 14 2022]


       Reaction wheels not only exist, but are in fact being used on spacecraft already, including the Beresheet and Lightsail 2.
21 Quest, Sep 14 2022

       Many reentry vehicles already use a combination of aerodynamics and reaction wheels to orient themselves, so really you're saying they should do the same thing but with heavier, less efficient, and more error-prone mechanisms. Innovation not found [-]
Voice, Sep 14 2022

       As nobody has built a a twisty-body space craft (essentially using entire structural parts in lieu as reaction wheels), it remains to be seen if it would be any heavier or more error prone. There may be other advantages as well - and any idea that can be researched by by dropping cats from high places is entirely halfbaked.
a1, Sep 14 2022

       Any air-catching rotating mechanism (such as a grid fin) uses aerodynamics that way. Moving it to the center of the aircraft doesn't make it different in that respect, but it does require hinging a lot of internal components.
Voice, Sep 14 2022

       // but it does require hinging a lot of internal components. //   

       That much is tried and tested on Scaled Composites Spaceship One & Two. Even though that design wasn't meant to twist the ship like a reaction wheel - it still reiled on aerodynamics for changing attitude - it's a pretty significant portion of the ship that changes shape.   

       The point is to change orientation before it hits atmosphere.
a1, Sep 14 2022

       I wonder if this could be done with shape memory materials / artificial muscles? I'm imagining something which, like a cat, has no rotating parts.
lurch, Sep 14 2022

       // a cat, has no rotating parts //   

       That must be why Fluffy the neighbor's cat was so annoyed when I tried to see how far I could twist its head around...   

       But think about that statement again - of course cats (and people!) have rotating parts. Just not through a full 360 degree range.
a1, Sep 14 2022


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