Attempt at High-Altitude Commercial ""Spaceflight"" Jump Resumes

Attempt at High-Altitude Commercial ""Spaceflight"" Jump Resumes

After being halted by a multi-million dollar lawsuit last year (see our story), daredevil Felix Baumgartner’s attempt to be the first human to break the speed of sound in freefall from a high altitude balloon is slated to take place this year.

Wearing a pressurized suit, Baumgartner will jump from a balloon in the stratosphere at an altitude of 120,000 feet — from the edge of space” as his sponsor Red Bull Stratos proclaims.  In addition to the publicity value, the venture seeks to provide medical and scientific data that may be relevant for future human spaceflight missions. Baumgartner not only wants to be the first human to break the speed of sound in free-fall, but aims to break three records that Red Bull Stratos asserts have remained in place for fifty years: highest “manned” balloon flight, highest skydive and longest skydive.  Baumgartner plans to skydive for 5 minutes 30 seconds.  Red Bull Stratos states that the current records were set by Col. Joseph Kittinger, Jr. in August 1960, when he came close to breaking the speed of sound. He serves as an advisor and a mentor to Baumgartner on the project.

During that flight, Kittinger jumped from a balloon at an altitude of 102,800 feet, freefell for four-and-a-half minutes and reached speeds up to 614 miles per hour according to the U.S. Centenntial of Flight Commission.  

The Commission, however, credits Malcolm Ross and Victor Prather with the highest altitude flight during a 1961 mission when they reached 113,740 feet.  Prather completed the flight, but died after falling from the sling of the rescue helicopter.  The FAI, the French organization that keeps official records for aviation and related fields, credits Ross with the altitude record.

Baumgartner and his team are in the final preparations of their project after completing testing in a vacuum chamber in Texas and moving on to the location of the jump in Roswell, New Mexico.

The success of the venture may well depend on Baumgartner’s only protection from the extreme conditions of the stratosphere, a pressurized suit that, according to the BBC, is similar to but tougher and more mobile than a NASA astronaut space suit. says “This mission is all about pioneer work. Maybe one day people will look back and say it was Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos team that helped to develop the suit that they’re wearing in space. We want to do something for posterity.”  

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