Weather balloons, pressurized capsules, and space suits were in the skies above Roswell, New Mexico this morning as Austrian skydiver and BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner executed a successful test jump from 71,581 ft. (about 13.6 miles) above the ground, returning safely to the earth. The jump was conducted to test the performance of the pressurized capsule, suit, parachute and other systems as part of the ongoing Red Bull Stratos Project that aims to set a new record for human free fall from the edge of space. Red Bull Stratos is back on track!
Baumgartner and the Stratos team intend to jump from an altitude of 120,000 ft. (nearly 23 miles high) sometime later this year. The launch window opens in July and extends into early October 2012.
Today, Baumgartner reached a speed of 364.4 mph and was in free fall for 3 minutes 33 seconds before deploying his parachute. The entire jump lasted 8 minutes and 8 seconds according to project spokeswoman Trish Medalen. During the final jump from 120,000 ft. Baumgartner is expected to break the sound barrier.
This morning’s jump had been planned for earlier in the week but was delayed due to weather in Roswell. With the successful test jump completed today, the long awaited Stratos project is back on track for its target.
If the project continues as planned the team will break the record of highest free fall (among other aerospace records) set by retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger. Kittinger successfully jumped from 102,800 ft. (19.5 miles up) in 1960 as part of a program designed to evaluate the response of the human body to the extreme conditions of the upper atmosphere and the possibility of safe pilot ejection during low earth orbit spacecraft launches.
Kittinger, now 83, is acting as a chief advisor to the project and member of the Red Bull Stratos team.
The project began back in 2004 when event promoter Daniel Hogan reportedly approached Red Bull with the concept and plans for the project then titled “Space Dive”. Hogan met with Dietrich Mateschitz, the billionaire owner of Red Bull, in Austria, but the project did not advance and the relationship dissolved in 2005. The new project, Stratos, was later announced by Red Bull in January 2010, in which Baumgartner would be the first person to break the sound-barrier by leaping from a capsule suspended from a helium balloon some 20 miles into the stratosphere, with no mention of Hogan. Hogan and his team filed a lawsuit with the Los Angeles Superior Court in April 2010 and the project was placed on indefinite hold. Red Bull and Hogan settled out of court in June 2011 and the suit was dismissed.
Baumgartner has one more dry run planned from 90,000 ft. before the final jump from 120,000 ft.
In a recent interview with the Associated Press Baumgartner said “I like to challenge myself, and this is the ultimate skydive. I think there’s nothing bigger than that.”