Red Bull Stratos was a space diving project involving Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner.
On 14 October 2012, Baumgartner flew approximately 39 kilometres (24 mi) into the stratosphere over New Mexico, United States, in a helium balloon before free falling in a pressure suit and then parachuting to Earth.
He ascended to 128,100 feet in a stratospheric balloon and made a freefall jump rushing toward Earth at supersonic speeds before parachuting to the ground. His successful feat on Oct. 14, 2012 holds the potential to provide valuable medical and scientific research data for future pioneers.
The Red Bull Stratos team brings together the world’s leading minds in aerospace medicine, engineering, pressure suit development, capsule creation and balloon fabrication. Retired United States Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger, previously held the record jump from 102,800 ft in 1960. This was during a time when no one knew if a human could survive a jump from the edge of space. Joe was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and had already taken a balloon to 97,000 feet in Project ManHigh and survived a drogue mishap during a jump from 76,400 feet in Excelsior I. The Excelsior III mission was his 33rd parachute jump.
Although researching extremes was part of the program’s goals, setting records wasn’t the mission’s purpose. Joe ascended in helium balloon launched from the back of a truck. He wore a pressurized suit on the way up in an open, unpressurized gondola. Scientific data captured from Joe’s jump was shared with U.S. research personnel for development of the space program. Today Felix and his specialized team want to take what was learned from Joe’s jumps more than 50 years ago, and combine that with data aquired during Felix’s supersonic freefall.
There were many unknowns about what would happen with Baumgartner when he jumped, the biggest of which was what breaking the sound barrier would do to his body. Gathered information on the feasibility of high-altitude bailouts will be useful to the budding commercial space-flight industry.
Dr. Jonathan Clark, medical director of the project, said:
We’ll be setting new standards for aviation. Never before has anyone reached the speed of sound without being in an aircraft. Red Bull Stratos is testing new equipment and developing the procedures for inhabiting such high altitudes as well as enduring such extreme acceleration. The aim is to improve the safety for space professionals as well as potential space tourists.
The project provided data for the development of high-performance, high-altitude parachute systems. It has been stated these will inform the development of new ideas for emergency evacuation from vehicles, such as spacecraft, passing through the stratosphere.
On 22 February 2013, FAI announced that Baumgartner had broken three of the four planned records.
The jump records Baumgartner attained:
- Exit altitude of 38.9694 kilometres (24.2145 mi)
- Maximum vertical speed (without drogue) of 1,357.6 kilometres per hour (843.6 mph)
- Vertical distance of freefall (without drogue) of 36,402.6 metres (119,431 ft)
To make Felix’s balloon rise into the air, his engineers needed to fill the balloon with a gas that is lighter than air.
Helium is a gas that is about seven times less dense than air (i.e. 7 times lighter).
Once the balloon was at the correct height, the engineers had to release some of the helium out of the balloon.
When the balloon and capsule were at neutral buoyancy, i.e. not floating up and not dropping down, Felix could then complete his jump.