With the increasing amount of sci-fi using drop-pods to get their soldiers on the ground I would like to look at the design and how a proper drop-pod should look.
The look and shape of such a drop-pod would depend on available technology, its function and cargo. A drop-pod that carries large construction equipment would be different from one that carries just one person, and usage for frontline drops or dropping in friendly lines is also going to need different from each other. So for the purpose of this question:
- Fuel available in this sci-fi universe has an energy density 10x that of current rocketfuel. This to emulate most sci-fy where fuel is often of little concern. Otherwise normal physics apply.
- Drop-pods need to be inexpensive enough to leave on a battlefield. If they are re-useable that is a bonus. This means limited use of rare materials and construction but it is assumed that construction has become a lot cheaper to begin with.
- The drop-pod needs to be more effective than a landing craft at dropping into combat
- The drop-pod is used for combat drops close to enemy positions. Key is high velocity and as little preparation time on the ground as possible before the infantry is ready to engage.
- In case of erroneous landing (IE the drop-pod lands on a slope and falls over) the occupant still needs to be alive and able to exit. Maximum slope to land on will be set at 45 degree angle.
- It is a single-seat drop-pod.
- The occupant is wearing a pressure-suit against G-forces.
- G-forces may not exceed 9 G's, which is what airforce pilots can endure without extended loss of consciousness. If the G-forces are downwards relative to the body (blood is pushed out of the brain) then 3 G's is the maximum.
- Drop-pods are used both in-atmosphere and on planets without an atmosphere.
- Drop-pods need limited steering capabilities.
How would a drop-pod be designed based on the above constraints? Things I want to know are:
- Occupant's space. Orientation of his chair (or other arrangement), cushioning, airbags(?), type of restraints (easy to take off, but won't disengage on landing), placement of additional equipment occupant might need.
- Shape of the outer shell. What is the most efficient shape trade-off between going through the atmosphere (or no atmosphere) and landing on a surface? Does it have landing struts, does it have parts designed to break off or expend themselves?
- Visuals and steering. A monitor and steering equipment might seem simple but when 9 G's are pulling on you it'll be pulling on your steering equipment as well.
Edit: For a look at potential methods to slow down, look here: Orbital Drop Pods: Useful?. However, this question is about the entire design, not just the methods to slow down.