Also found in: Acronyms.
a spacecraft designed for descent, with braking, and landing on the earth or another celestial body. On manned spacecraft the descent vehicle is a cabin containing the crew; on unmanned spacecraft it is an instrument capsule. The descent vehicle is equipped with radio-communications, temperature-control, and life-support systems, a control panel, and seats for the astronauts. It also has descent control systems, a retrorocket engine, parachutes, and a soft-landing system. Its outer surface is covered with a heat shield. A descent vehicle may have a spherical, conical, or other shape. During atmospheric descent the descent vehicle uses the atmosphere’s aerodynamic drag. When braking is used during descent, the descent may have a ballistic or glide trajectory.