How long would it take for a spaceplane to fall from the Thermosphere to the Caribbean sea?

Hi, I’m writting a novel and in it a spaceplane is attacked by a satellite. I need to know how long (the fastest) would it take for that spaceplane to hit the Caribbean sea. Also, over which country / countries would the spaceplane be traveling in order for it to hit the Caribbean sea, again, the fastest route possible.

No idea on how fast it could hit the carrib, but information on the space shuttle when it lands at kennedy should provide the resources you need for what countries it overflys to get to that point.


Edit, on preview it would probably also depend on the air worthiness of the space plane when it transitions to airborne flight, if its been attacked by a battlesat.

never mind…

Well, as a reference, Eugene Andreev performed the longest free-fall parachute jump from around 102,000 feet. It took him about 4. minutes to reach 14000 ft (where he deployed his parachute).

The thermosphere starts about 50 miles above the Earth. Orbital velocity is around 15,000 MPH. So theoretically, depending on the trajectory of your spaceplane, it could just strike the earth in seconds like a meteor.

It could also stay aloft for hours or even days in a slowly decaying orbit until it hits the atmosphere and slows to a point where it just falls out of the sky like Mr Andreev.

Really it’s totally up to your story.

Watch this NASA TV video of live coverage of the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster. It will give you a roughly similar real-life scenario with hard numbers. The specifics depend on the characteristics of you space-plane but you are generally looking at 15 - 20 minutes to impact with the Carribean Sea if it was near orbital speed when hit coming in over the west coast of the U.S. The Columbia scenario ended over East Texas but it is similar if you shift Southeast a little geographically.

Nitpick: Slight confusion. Andreev’s jump was from 83,523 ft. Joseph Kittinger jumped from 102,800 feet, but using a drogue chute to stabilize his direction (avoid spin), which may be why Guinness gives the free-fall record to Andreev. The drogue didn’t slow Kittinger too much, as he approached the speed of sound in his fall. Source.

You’re the writer – how long does it need to take to tell your story? I can see it taking anywhere between three minutes (if it is falling straight down) to three hours (if it is limping along for two decaying orbits while the crew desperately tries to jury-rig a repair that will allow them to get their passengers down alive).

Thanks folks, your input really helped!