Flyback Shrouds

Seeing the picture of the SpaceX shroud floating in the water, it struck me how much it resembled the bottom half of certain lifting bodies. Then it struck me that this thought had been around before, whether it had been a passing thought, or a hint of memory of a past conversation.

My current thought is that the shroud inflates an upper body after separation and deploys a couple of vertical tails. Very fluffy flying reentry for a controlled glide to recovery. It seems possible that a very light propulsion unit of about 100-200 hp could extend the glide to an RTLS. Or possibly a aerial tow RTLS.

Does anyone know if this is a new (if not unique) thought or just a forgotten memory of a previous discussion?

The following two tabs change content below.


I do construction for a living and aerospace as an occasional hobby. I am an inventor and a bit of an entrepreneur. I've been self employed since the 1980s and working in concrete since the 1970s. When I grow up, I want to work with rockets and spacecraft. I did a stupid rocket trick a few decades back and decided not to try another hot fire without adult supervision. Haven't located much of that as we are all big kids when working with our passions.

Latest posts by johnhare (see all)

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Flyback Shrouds

  1. DougSpace says:

    That seems like a very practical idea.

  2. peterh says:

    Yes, half a payload shroud does resemble some early experimental lifting bodies. As I recall the objective of those designs was not good low speed lift/drag, but a lifting reentry vehicle with enough low speed lift for a runway landing.

    If you did go that direction for payload shroud recovery, the inflatable fill-in need not fill the whole back side, but only enough for reasonably clean and stable flight at a good attitude. The aft end near the parting line could stand proud of the fill-in, serving as vertical stabilizers without having to deploy surfaces for the purpose.

    A quick sketch,

  3. johnhare john hare says:

    Your sketch would be an improvement on the idea if it works. Less mass and less complexity. I would bet that both thoughts have been simulated somewhere on proprietary equipment, which means I’ll likely never know if either of them are feasible.

  4. Paul D. says:

    This thread prompted me to look at the mass of shroud/volume it encloses. It’s not quite low enough to allow the shroud (or shroud half) to act as a lighter than air craft, but it’s not that far off.

  5. Paul451 says:

    Complication: Shrouds aren’t passive shells. They contain complex through-ways, hatches, baffles, insulation, etc. To have an inflatable “back shell”, as depicted by Peter, the deflated skin would cover these important access points and possibly interfere with other parts.

    To have the inflatable part packed away from the rest of the shroud, but to still be properly attached and aerodynamically streamlined once deployed, would be quite difficult.

    If you want to embed a long painful link like that, use <a href=””>text</a> to hide the url behind text. For example, your link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *