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Meaning of atmospheric braking

at'mospher'ic brak'ing

Pronunciation: [key]
— Rocketry. Rocketry.
  1. a technique of reentry in which the vehicle is maneuvered in the upper atmosphere so as to lose velocity by utilizing drag without overheating.
Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.