V0.2 - 17-04-2020

A brief history of Entry Descent and Landing systems

The history of entry descent and landing systems is a large and diverse one. This section of the page gives an overview of the big achievements and records in the world of EDL

1 - Early days of parachuting

For as long as humans have been around, they have been looking at the sky and wondering if they too would be able to fly amongst the birds. As soon as people learned how to fly they were looking for methods to save themselves in case of failure. Parachuting was born.

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2 - The space race

Almost as soon as world war 2 ended, the space race between the Soviet Union and the USA started. These chapters describe the different phases of the space race, from reaching space to the crewed moon landings and robots on Mars and Venus.

2.1 - First rockets

With the invention of the rocket, the intercontinental ballistic missile soon went from a dream to a reality. This ushered in a new era of global thread, but also demonstrated the technical challenges of high-speed atmospheric flight. Engineers soon realised that thermal protection would be required to withstand the itense heat of re-entry. 

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2.2 - First spaceflight

As soon as rockets became (a bit) more reliable both Russia and the US started experimenting with living creatures onboard their rockets. A generation of dogs, turtles, mice and cats became the first animals in space. 

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2.3 - Poyekhali!

When Gagarin lifted off from Baikonur on the Vostok 1 flight, he did so with the words "Поехали" or "Let's go". This marked the first launch of a human being into space, closely followed by the American Alan Shepard. This section takes a closer look into human spaceflight over the years and the challenges posed on the EDL system when flying a crew. 

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2.4 - Landing on a different world

During the space race, the goal was placed further and further. After the first successful earth satellites, and a human in orbit the race went on to the Moon, Mars and Venus. Not just exploring these worlds from Space, but also landing on them.

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3 - Future and outlook

Currently, several developments are going on in the field of Entry Descent and Landing. These include inflatable heat shields and supersonic retro propulsion. This page gives more insight into what the engineers of the world are working on at the moment

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4 - Other nations and topics

It might be noted that Europe was only mentioned in the first chapter describing the development of parachutes in general. In the second chapter, on the space race, there was basically no mention of nations besides the US and Russia. This does not mean that Europe, China and others have not been doing their own research. 

4.1 - Europe

Even though Europe has yet to use EDL technology in an active mission, Europe or ESA has done several experiments. On included the small Apollo capsule under the ARD mission. One mission that put Europe on the map was the IXV mission, the first lift-generating body performing a (suborbital) space flight.

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4.2 - China

Currently, China is one of the three nations that can bring and return humans to space. This is only something of the last 20 years, however, china did not sit still in the years before that. The human-to-space ambition of China goes back to the FSW satellites first launched in 1974. 

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4.3 - India

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4.4 - Japan


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