A German word referring to the moment when a rocket's engine shuts off and the missile becomes ballistic, and therefore mathematically predictable.

Rocket scientists are all familiar with this term, as were the fun-loving residents of London during the Blitz of World War II, when thousands of Nazi V-2 rockets (each in a state beyond brennschluss) rained down upon their city.

Brennschluss takes on an even more insidious meaning in Thomas Pynchon's comic masterpiece, Gravity's Rainbow, where the author muses upon the gothic-poetic idea that once brennschluss has been reached--in the precise instant where the rocket's climb must transform into its fall, just before gravity takes over--the machine possesses a mind of its own, and thus represents a horrible vitality in opposition to nature.

2009-03-03 raincomplex says re brennschluss: it literally means 'burn-conclusion'