A return vehicle is disclosed for use in returning a crew to Earth from low earth orbit in a safe and relatively cost effective manner. The return vehicle comprises a cylindrically-shaped crew compartment attached to the large diameter of a conical heat shield having a spherically rounded nose. On-board inertial navigation and cold gas control systems are used together with a de-orbit propulsion system to effect a landing near a preferred site on the surface of the Earth. State vectors and attitude data are loaded from the attached orbiting craft just prior to separation of the return vehicle
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