Red Bull Stratos: Man Will Free Fall From Earth’s Stratosphere

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On August 16, 1960, Joe Kittinger fell from 20 miles (102,800 feet) above the Earth’s surface setting the free fall record. In 2010, Felix Baumgartner plans to break Joe’s record by falling back down to Earth from 120,000 (~23 miles) feet high. Think about that for a second, folks.

Man will free fall from Earth’s stratosphere with only a pressurized suit to protect him. In preparation for the multiple record breaking jump, Felix will free fall from 25,000 feet, 65,000 feet and then 90,000 feet to acclimate himself in prep for the 120,000 foot jump. His means of transportation up to 120,000 feet, you ask? A stratospheric balloon, of course! If that weren’t crazy enough. Felix will attempt to be the first human to break the speed of sound by reaching Mach 1.0 speeds (~700MPH). By reaching heights of 120,000 feet, Felix will also establish a new altitude record. He’s also going for the longest duration free fall at around 5 minutes and 35 seconds.

(More on Techland: Video: Joe Kittinger’s 102,800 ft Descent)

Aside from Stratos being a huge publicity stunt, the medical team will be collecting data to see if pilots and astronauts can safely egress from an aircraft in emergency situations above 100,000 feet. If Felix were to open his face shield from such a high altitude, he’ll turn into a “human fizzy” as every ounce of liquid in his body will immediately evacuate. The team is hoping that Felix can keep his speed below Mach 1.2 as he may lose control during the jump and, you know, that’s not a good thing.

Baumgartner is currently training out of Beale Air Force Base in Sacramento, CA. A date for the launch of Stratos has not been set as the team is closely monitoring weather patterns for optimal conditions. However, Stratos will launch and land within North America. The entire trip will be documented and streamed live from a complex setup of cameras and video cameras strapped to Felix and the Stratos balloon. If that weren’t enough, Nokia owners can now follow Felix and the rest of the Red Bull Stratos team as they prepare for this historic event including the jump. It’s currently available now through the Ovi Store.

(More on Techland: The Top 10 Spaceships: A Tale of Thrusters and Heat Shields)

The following are tidbits compiled from the press conference held earlier today in NYC:

The balloon material is made from polyethylene with a 1mm thickness.

Felix will hit supersonic speeds within 30 seconds of jumping out of his balloon.

The highest free fall for Felix was ~33,000 feet when he crossed the English Channel back in 2003.

Felix will land in North America. Launch site and date are TBD based on weather conditions.

The entire trip will be documented with specially designed cameras that are strapped to the capsule and Felix himself.

Nokia will have an app available via the Ovi Store that monitors everything leading up to the jump including Felix’s biometric data. You can also watch the jump live via the app.

(More on Techland: 18 Best Android Apps To Get You Started)

David Clark has built Felix’s suit, which is based on the S1034 suit. Joe Kittinger’s pressurized suit from 1960 was also made by David Clark.

Joe’s flight in 1960 was financed by the US Air Force. Felix’s flight is backed by Red Bull.

Felix spends most of his time in a pressure chamber at Beale Air Force Base.

Red Bull Stratos team:

Felix Baumgartner – Test Jump Pilot
Art Thompson – Technical Project Director
Dr. Jonathan Clark – Medical Director
Col. Joe Kittinger [Ret.] – Flight Operations and Safety, Capcom I
Einar Enevoldson – Flight Operations, Capcom II
Mike Todd – Life Support Engineer
Near Space Corp – Red Bull Stratos Balloon Launch Operations
David Clark – Full pressure suit manufacturer

This will be Felix’s last project. Baumgartner will move on to be a helicopter pilot for fire and rescue teams.

(More on Techland: What We’re Looking Forward To In 2010: Gadgets)

Felix and Art have been conceptualizing this particular project since 2005. Stratos began coming together in 2007.

This is crazy: if Felix sweats too much too early in his jump, he runs the risk of said perspiration freezing over inside the suit.

More info can be found at Red Bull Stratos

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