(Newsdesk) Only one more step to go to 120,000 feet / 36,500 meter, said Felix Baumgartner yesterday after jumping from an altitude of 96,640ft /29,455m at 536mph/863kph, and after 3 minutes and 48 seconds in freefall leading up to a 10 minutes and 36 seconds descent.
For a long time during his 5 years of preparation, his custom made space suit made him feel claustrophobic, says Baumgartner, because it’s hard to breath in it, it’s hard to see something, it’s hard to move. To overcome that, he followed advice from his mentor, Joe Kittinger. who told him, “spend as much time in your suit as you can just to make sure you like the suit, because if you get too much scared, you are not going to be successful.”
Yesterday, July 25, Baumgartner made his second successful practice jump in preparation of his mission to ascend to 120,000 feet (36,500 meter) in a stratospheric balloon and make a freefall jump. With that he is hoping to break the sound barrier with his body and break the record for the longest freefall before parachuting to the ground.
Two practice jumps
The Red Bull Stratos team reported yesterday Felix landed safely after manned flight test no. 2 from a preliminary altitude of 96,640ft/29,455m and 536mph/863kph; in freefall after 3 minutes and 48 seconds leading up to a 10 minute and 36 second decent.
Felix ascended inside a pressurized space capsule to this height under a helium-filled balloon. The capsule launched from the desert near Roswell, New Mexico, USA. The desert there is known for its ideal ballooning weather in summer, but it can turn any moment. This jump was delayed twice because of too high winds and thunderstorms. Light winds and clear skies are needed for a lift off.
It took the balloon with the capsule 90 minutes to reach the jump-off altitude, reports the team.
In March, Felix completed the first manned jump, a culmination of testing equipment, the team, and the procedures together under real flight conditions.
Data from the International Air Sports Federation (FAI) shows how the 1st manned test measured up:
Altitude reached: 71,615.2 ft / 21,828.3 meters
Parachute opened at: 8,210.6 ft / 2,502.6 meters
Freefall time: 3 minutes and 40 seconds
The fastest ascent rate of the capsule: 1,200 feet per minute (estimate)
Speed reached in freefall: 364.69 mph / 586.92 km per hour
“This stems from five years of testing and intensive work. The effort takes more than 100 expert personnel who have been building and creating one-of-a-kind technology, and sometimes coming together from across the world,” says Red Bull Stratos.
Current record height
A key member of Baumgarten’s team is Joe Kittinger, current record holder for highest-altitude skydive. On August 16th, 1960 he jumped from a height of 102,800 ft (31,300 m). Kittinger (born July 27, 1928) ascended in a helium balloon launched from the back of a truck. He wore a pressurized suit on the way up in an open, unpressurized gondola.
Towing a small drogue parachute for initial stabilization, he fell for four minutes and 36 seconds, reaching a maximum speed of 614 miles per hour (988 km/h) before opening his parachute at 18,000 feet (5,500 m), according to Wikipedia. Pressurization for his right glove malfunctioned during the ascent, and his right hand swelled up to twice its normal size. He set historical numbers for highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, longest drogue-fall (four minutes), and fastest speed by a human being through the atmosphere.
Red Bull Stratos added that during a distinguished USAF career, Joe served as a test pilot, Squadron Commander, and Vice Wing Commander, and he spent 11 months as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam. He retired as a Colonel.
In the Danger Zone of 63,000 feet and up, a human’s body fluids would "boil" without a pressure suit. While it isn't a complete vacuum, the number of breathable air molecules is so few, you cannot survive without creating a human-friendly pressurized climate, says Red Bull Stratos.
“To reduce the likelihood of decompression sickness, his space suit is designed to provide pressure equivalent to the environment at 35,000 feet.”
“The exterior of the full-pressure suit is made of a material that is both fire retardant and an insulator against extreme cold (likely around -5°F (-21°C) when Felix jumps and possibly as low as -70°F (-57°C) during his descent). Inside, the suit's "bladder" is filled with gases to provide the pressurization. The uninflated suit, without the helmet and visor, weighs approximately 28 pounds.”
“The helmet's oxygen regulator will provide Felix with 100 percent oxygen to breathe from various sources (a liquefied oxygen source on the ground before launch, from the capsule's liquefied system when he's onboard, and from a pair of high-pressure gaseous oxygen cylinders during the freefall descent). When Felix exhales, his breath is vented into the suit, designed to maintain its pressure of 3.5 psi (pounds per square inch) during the initial phase of the freefall. The helmet weighs about 8 pounds.”
One step at a time
"It has always been a dream of mine. Only one more step to go," says Felix Baumgartner.
No official date for the record-setting 120,000 feet (36,500 meter) attempt has been given, but it is said to be subject to favorable weather conditions and critical post-jump assessments of the capsule and equipment.
Born in Salzburg, Austria in 1969, Felix Baumgartner began skydiving at the age of 16 and polished his skills as part of the Austrian military's demonstration and competition team. In 1988, he began performing skydiving exhibitions for Red Bull.
By the 1990s, Felix extended his skills with BASE jumping. Felix has made world-record BASE jumps and has been nominated for a World Sports Award and two categories in the NEA Extreme Sports Awards. He is also a prominent advocate for the nonprofit Wings for Life Spinal Cord Research Foundation.
Felix's Record Breaking Jumps and Accomplishments include:
2012 - (March 15) First test jump with high altitude balloon and pressurized capsule: Freefall from 71,581 feet over Roswell, NM. Maximum speed: 364.4 mph. Felix is the third person to leap from that altitude and survive.
2007 - BASE jump from world's tallest building, Taipei 101 Tower, Taipei, Taiwan (1,669 feet)
2006 - Felix earned his motorized wings as a helicopter pilot at Twin Air Helicopter School, Van Nuys, USA.
2004 - BASE jump into Marmet Cave in Velebit National Parc, Croatia (623 feet deep)
2004 - World record BASE jump from the highest bridge in the world, Millau Bridge, France (1,125 feet)
2003 - Channel Crossing, Dover, England to Calais, France; first crossing of the English Channel with a carbon wing
2001 - Nominated for a World Sports Award in London, England (category: Extreme Sports)
1999 - World record BASE jump from the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (1,479 feet)
1999 - World record lowest BASE jump from Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (95 feet)
1997 - World champion title for BASE jumping in West Virginia, United States.
Video below: no parachute system has ever been used for this kind of controlled supersonic freefall. Months of development and testing have resulted in revolutionary drogue technology.
Below an animated video from Red Bull Stratos offers a sense of what to expect when the history-making jump happens later this summer.
Video: USAF Col. Joe Kittinger (ret) is the quintessential guide. His expertise in accomplishing extraordinary feats makes him the ideal mentor, says Red Bull Stratos.
Video: this pressure suit keeps Felix alive in a high-altitude hostile environment.
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