In The Expanse, (and other sci-fi keeping closer to the science than the fiction) the maneuver used to slow a space ship down is colloquialy referred to as flip and burn. What is the term used by real world aerospace engineers and pilots? Something like "retrograde thrust".

  • 4
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is not about a film or T&V show but rather scientific language.
    – Skooba
    Nov 13 '18 at 15:37
  • Space Exploration Stack Exchange would be a more appropriate place to get some good answers to this question. Oct 13 '19 at 13:46

Something like "retrograde thrust".

You pretty much nailed it there.

It's usually applied to orbital manoeuvres since we currently don't venture out much further than Earth/Lunar orbit

A retrograde orientation is one that has the ship facing in the opposite direction from its direction of travel in its orbit.

A retrograde burn is one in that direction, i.e. that subtracts from the ship's orbital speed.

The effect of a retrograde burn is to lower the orbit's altitude (opposite the ship's current location); it is thus used when approaching a planet or moon and assuming a closed orbit, or when landing.


Essentially, thrust in the opposite direction to current one to slow down.

  • "Retrograde" just means facing or moving backwards, so you don't need to do the "flip" part at all to do a "retrograde burn," if you've got thrusters on the front of your ship. The maneauover they do in the show is a sudden and drastic course correction in response to an emergency signal, whereas a "retrograde burn" could be used IRL simply to slow down while docking with a space station. The "Flip & burn" move could reasonably be considered a subset of retrograde burn maneauovers, but it's not the only thing that falls under that description.
    – Steve-O
    Nov 14 '18 at 15:01

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