This Is What It Looks Like to Freefall From Space


Remember BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner’s incredible freefall from the “edge of space” in October 2012? The highly anticipated (and highly publicized) Red Bull-sponsored stunt was watched live by viewers around the world (including me — it was very cool!) and set new records for highest jump, fastest freefall, and highest balloon-powered human flight. That day Baumgartner even broke the long-standing record held by his mentor Col. Joe Kittinger, who jumped from 102,800 feet in August 1960… and with seven GoPro Hero2 cameras mounted to Felix’s high-tech suit and helmet, you can see what he saw during every one of the 127,852 feet that he fell down to Earth.

(That’s ah, over 24 miles/39 km. *Gulp.*)

The video above was released today by GoPro, and is a more polished and edited version than the one released by Red Bull this past October. Check it out above, or for full vertigo-inducing* freefall effect watch it in fullscreen HD on YouTube. *Consider yourself warned!

HT to Robert Gonzalez at io9

Watch: Incredible Headcam Video from Felix’s Freefall

Felix Baumgartner salutes his suit-mounted camera before stepping off his capsule’s platform at 128,000 feet (Red Bull Stratos)

Yesterday, October 14, Austrian pilot and BASE jumper Felix Baumgartner became the first person to skydive from over 128,000 feet, breaking the sound barrier during his 4 minute, 20 second plummet from the “edge of space.” A new video from Red Bull Stratos includes views from Felix’s suit-mounted cameras as he drops through virtually no atmosphere, smoothly at first but then going into a wild spin… but eventually stabilizing himself for the remainder of his fall and opening his chute at just over 6,000 feet. Incredible!

Check out the video below:

Here’s how Baumgartner described the spin and how he got out of it during the press conference after his jump yesterday:

“It started out really good because my exit was perfect, I did exactly what I was supposed to do… It looked like for a second I was going to tumble two more times and then get it under control, but for some reason that spin became so violent over all axis and it was hard to know how to get out of it, because, if you are trapped in a pressurized suit – normally as a skydiver you can feel the air and get direct feedback from the air — but here you are trapped in a suit that is pressurized at 3.5 PSI so you don’t know how to feel the air. It is like swimming without touching the water. And it’s hard because every when time it turns you around you have to figure out what to do. So I was sticking my arm out and it became worse and then I stuck arm out the other side and it became less, so I was fighting all the way down to regain control because I wanted to break the speed of sound. And I hit it. I don’t know how many seconds, but I could feel air was building up and then I hit it.”

So, in that quote, Baumgartner seemed to describe that he could feel when he broke the speed of sound, but in answering the next question of how it felt, he kind of backtracked and said he didn’t feel it.

“It’s hard to describe because I didn’t feel it. When you are in the pressure suit, you don’t feel anything, it is like being in a cast…. We have to look at the data – at what point did it happen — was I still spinning or was I under control? If you want to chart speed you need a reference point of things that pass you by, or sound, or your suit if flapping. I didn’t have that.”

Read more about Baumgartner’s record (and sound!) -breaking achievement and see lots more images and video here.

ADDED: A version of the video showing his chute opening (and with some background music added) can be found here on iloveskydiving.org.

Red Bull Stratos Targets Oct. 8 for Record-Setting Freefall Attempt

Felix Baumgarter (center) and the Red Bull Stratos team are ready to attempt a record-setting freefall from the stratosphere. Credit: Red Bull

The countdown is on for Felix Baumgartner’s jump from the stratosphere. Red Bull Stratos reports that the space capsule Baumgartner will used has passed high-altitude simulation testing after it was damaged in July’s final practice jump, and a launch date has been set for October 8 in Roswell, New Mexico.

Baumgartner will leap from the edge of space, attempting to not only break the sound barrier with his body, but also break the record for the longest freefall.

As no one has successfully jumped from this height before, it’s uncertain what the highest supersonic freefall in history will look or feel like. The animated video below, provides a sense of what to expect during the attempt.

“After years of training with my team of dedicated Red Bull Stratos experts, I’ll be going on a journey that no one has ever done,” Baumgartner told Universe Today in 2010 in an email message. “If I succeed, I will be the first person to break the sound barrier, alone. That will be a record for all eternity. As such, a piece of me will become immortal. That excites me.”

43-year-old Baumgartner is hoping to jump from nearly 37 km (23 miles, 120,000 feet) to break the current jump record held by Joe Kittinger a retired Air Force officer, who jumped from 31,500 meters (31.5 km, 19.5 miles, 102,000 ft) in 1960. Now 83, Kittinger is assisting Baumgartner in preparations for the jump.

Baumgartner said he is delighted that “go” has been given for the attempt.

“I feel like a tiger in a cage waiting to get out,” said Baumgartner, a B.A.S.E. jumpers and extreme athletes, who in 2003 became the first person to make a freefall flight across the English Channel with the aid of a carbon wing. He will be flying as fast as speeding bullet during his supersonic journey to Earth.

The Red Bull Stratos team is trying to involve the public as much as possible. They will webcast the freefall attempt, and there’s even a contest to estimate where Baumgartner will land.

Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos team have been preparing for years to break the record for highest-altitude jump. The capsule, which at about 1.315 kilograms (2,899 pounds) weighs a little bit more than a VW Beetle, was damaged in a hard landing following Baumgartner’s final test jump from a near-record altitude of 29,610 meters (97,146 feet) in July – during the jump Baumgartner was freefalling at speeds of up to 536 mph / 864 kilometers per hour, or as fast as a commercial airliner. The Austrian landed safely in another part of the New Mexico desert.

Red Bull Stratos says the central aim of the project is to collect valuable data for science that could ultimately help improve the safety of space travel and enable high-altitude escapes from spacecraft. The jump will also attempt to break an assortment of records such as highest speed in freefall, highest jump, highest manned balloon flight and longest freefall.

They are cautiously optimistic about the launch date of October 8, while acknowledging that perfect weather conditions are needed for the delicate 30 million cubic feet / 850.000 cubic meters helium balloon, which is made of plastic that has 1/10th the thickness of a Ziploc bag. Mission meteorologist Don Day confirmed, “Early fall in New Mexico is one of the best times of the year to launch stratospheric balloons.”

Skydiver Baumgartner Takes Test Jump from 30 kilometers

Caption: Pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria lands in the desert during the second manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico, USA on July 25, 2012. Credit: Red Bull Stratos

Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner took a practice jump today, (July 25, 2012) to help him prepare for his leap from the edge of space later this year where he hopes to not only break the sound barrier with his body, but also break the record for the longest freefall. In preparation for his Red Bull Stratos mission, Baumgartner rode his specially-made pressurized capsule via a helium balloon and jumped from an altitude of over 29,455 meters (96,640 feet), falling for 3 minutes, 48 seconds, reaching speeds of 862 km/h (536 mph).

According to Red Bull Stratos team, this is the final milestone before his attempt of jumping from 36,500 meters (120,000 feet), to break the current jump record held by Joe Kittinger a retired Air Force officer – and Baumgartner’s current adviser and mentor — who jumped from 31,500 m (31.5 km, 19.5 miles) in 1960.

Caption: Technical Project Director Art Thompson and Capcom 1 USAF Col Joe Kittinger of the United States welcome Pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria during the second manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico, USA on July 25, 2012. Credit: Red Bull Stratos.

Today’s test launch was twice delayed due to bad weather, but the Red Bull team said they were never discouraged, well aware that even Space Shuttle launches sometimes faced several days of postponement.

“It was a rough couple of days and an exhausting endeavor,” Baumgartner said after the successful landing. “I am now really excited. It has always been a dream of mine. Only one more step to go,”

“It’s hard not to get emotional about today,” said technical project director Art Thompson. “We are just so glad to have Felix back on the ground after a long week with significant weather challenges. The crew did a great job.”

Caption: Pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria celebrates after he lands at the desert during the second manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos. Credit: Red Bull Stratos.

The balloon took about 90 minutes to reach the desired altitude, and after the freefall, he floated down on his parachute for about eight minutes. Baumgartner landed in the New Mexico desert, just about 15 minutes by helicopter from his launch site at Roswell International Air Center.

Today’s successful test, with a balloon over four times as large as the one that carried Baumgartner for the first test flight in March, provided more insights for the progress of the project and also new data for the benefit of aerospace research, the team said.

Red Bull Stratos did not provide an official date for the record-setting attempt, but only said it is now subject to favorable weather conditions and critical post-jump assessments of the capsule and equipment.

Source: Red Bull Stratos

Supersonic Freefall: What Felix Baumgartner’s 37-km Jump Will be Like

Sometime this summer, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner will leap from the edge of space, attempting to not only break the sound barrier with his body, but also break the record for the longest freefall. As no one has successfully jumped from this height before, it’s uncertain what the highest supersonic freefall in history will look or feel like. This animated video put out by the Red Bull Stratos team provides a sense of what to expect during the attempt.

“After years of training with my team of dedicated Red Bull Stratos experts, I’ll be going on a journey that no one has ever done,” Baumgartner told Universe Today in 2010 in an email message. “If I succeed, I will be the first person to break the sound barrier, alone. That will be a record for all eternity. As such, a piece of me will become immortal. That excites me.”

42-year-old Baumgartner is hoping to jump from nearly 37 km (23 miles, 120,000 feet) to break the current jump record held by Joe Kittinger a retired Air Force officer, who jumped from 31,500 meters (31.5 km, 19.5 miles, 102,000 ft) in 1960. Now 83, Kittinger is assisting Baumgartner in preparations for the jump.

There have been several attempts to surpass Kittinger’s record, but none have succeeded, and people have given their lives for the quest. Kittinger’s jump contributed valuable data that provided ground work for spacesuit technology and knowledge about human physiology for the US space program.

Image caption: Felix Baumgartner and life support engineer Mike Todd celebrate after landing of the first manned test flight for the Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico on March 15, 2012. Credit: Red Bull Stratos.

If Baumgartner is successful, the Red Bull Stratos mission will break four world records: the altitude record for freefall, the distance record for longest freefall, the speed record for fastest freefall by breaking the speed of sound with the human body, and the altitude record for the highest manned balloon flight.

How fast will Baumgarter need to go to beat the speed of sound? Sound travels at different speeds through the atmosphere (as well as through different mediums), depending on atmospheric density and temperature. For example, at sea level, in average conditions of about 15 degrees C (59 degrees F), sound travels at around 1,223 kph (760 mph). But at higher altitudes, where the air is colder, sound travels more slowly.

Researchers with the Red Bull Stratos mission anticipate Baumgartner could break the sound barrier at about 30,480 meters (100,000 feet) above sea level, in temperatures of -23 to -40 C (-10 to -40 F) where sound travels at about 1,110 kph (690 mph) or roughly 304 meters per second (1,000 feet per second).

So, he’ll have to go faster than those speeds – or Mach 1 — to be supersonic.

While there is no literal “barrier,” the transition to supersonic speeds can cause problems for aircraft as transonic air movement creates disruptive shock waves and turbulence. Data obtained from Chuck Yeager’s first supersonic flight in 1947 allowed for changes in design of supersonic aircraft to avoid problems. Still, some aircraft do experience problems at that point, and going supersonic has been attributed to some air disasters.

And the human body isn’t designed for supersonic speeds.

“Our biggest concern is that we don’t know how a human unencumbered by aircraft is going to transition through this,” said the project’s Medical Director Dr. Jonathan Clark, a flight surgeon for six space shuttle missions (and husband of astronaut Laurel Clark who died in the Columbia disaster in 2003), who has researched numerous aerospace disasters. “But it’s also exactly what we’re hoping to learn, for the benefit of future space flights.”

Documents provided by the Red Bull Stratos mission say that the data obtained from the mission will be shared with the scientific community, and Clark noted that he expects long-awaited medical protocols to be established as a result.

A live webcast of the Red Bull Stratos freefall will air on the Red Bull Stratos website.

Record-Setting Freefall Attempt Will be Webcast

Want to know what it is like to bail out in near space and freefall 37 km (23 miles) to Earth? You’re about to find out. While no date has been announced yet for Felix Baumgartner’s attempt at breaking the speed of sound during freefall, when it does occur, everyone will be able to watch. The Red Bull Stratos mission team announced today there will be a live television broadcast and online stream of the activities. In-flight cameras will be mounted on the capsule that brings him to 36,500 meters (120,000 feet) altitude via stratospheric balloon, as well as on Baumgartner’s space suit. If successful, this will be the first time in history a freefalling human body will reach supersonic speeds.


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There will also be microphones inside the capsule and inside Baumgartner’s helmet. Those on the capsule will record sound only as long as there is air to carry the soundwaves. When Baumgartner depressurizes the capsule (just before he jumps), those ambient microphones in the capsule will stop picking up sound, but his helmet mic should keep working.

The final launch date, location and live stream details will be announced in the coming weeks on www.redbullstratos.com, on Twitter (@RedBullStratos), and on Facebook.

The current record-holder, USAF Col. (Ret.) Joe Kittinger jumped from 102,800 feet 50 years ago this month. He did not break the speed of sound, although he probably came close. There have been several attempts to surpass Kittinger’s record, but none have succeeded, and people have given their lives for the quest. There are some movies and images from Kittinger’s jump, and his team used spring-wound motion picture cameras warmed by hot-water bottles to document his freefall. Red Bull Stratos will use high-definition video cameras and ultra-high-definition 4K digital cinematography cameras. The challenge will be keeping them cool in an environment where the air is too thin to wick away their heat.

The footage is being taken by FlightLine Films, who will be making a documentary about the jump, so it’s not clear how much will be live on the webcast, although the press release by Red Bull Stratos says the camers will “provide viewers of the worldwide broadcast with perspectives of the capsule, the skyscape and Baumgartner himself.”

And of course there is the main reason to record everything that happens in the jump: for the benefit of scientific research.

We’ll provide an update on the date of the Baumgartner’s jump when it is announced.

Read our preview article on Baumgartner’s record-breaking attempt.

Skydiver Hopes to Break the Speed of Sound in Freefall

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The speed of sound — historically called the ‘sound barrier’ – has been broken by rockets, various jet-powered aircraft and rocket-boosted land vehicles. Felix Baumgartner wants to break the sound barrier with his body, in freefall from the edge of space. He will travel inside a capsule with a stratospheric balloon to 36,500 meters (120,000 feet) step out and attempt a freefall jump targeted to reach – for the first time in history – supersonic speeds.

“After years of training with my team of dedicated Red Bull Stratos experts, I’ll be going on a journey that no one has ever done,” Baumgartner told Universe Today in an email message. “If I succeed, I will be the first person to break the sound barrier, alone. That will be a record for all eternity. As such, a piece of me will become immortal. That excites me.”

Baumgartner, left with Joe Kittinger. Credit: Red Bull Stratos

Back in 1960, a US Air Force captain named Joe Kittinger made aerospace history by making a jump from 31,000 meters (102,800 feet). His jump contributed valuable data that provided ground work for spacesuit technology and knowledge about human physiology for the US space program. There have been several attempts to surpass Kittinger’s record, but none have succeeded, and people have given their lives for the quest.

Sometime during 2010, Baumgartner will make an attempt in his “Red Bull Stratos” mission — named after the energy drink company that co-created the program with the Austrian skydiver. Red Bull Stratos team members say the mission will explore the limits of the human body in one of the most hostile environments known to humankind, in the attempt to deliver valuable lessons in human endurance and high-altitude technology.

“This is the biggest goal I can dream of,” Baumgartner said. “If we can prove that you can break the speed of sound and stay alive I think that is a benefit for future space exploration.”

If Baumgartner is successful, the Red Bull Stratos mission will break four world records: the altitude record for freefall, the distance record for longest freefall, the speed record for fastest freefall by breaking the speed of sound with the human body, and the altitude record for the highest manned balloon flight.

Baumgartner during a test flight. Credit: Red Bull Stratos

How fast will Baumgarter need to go to beat the speed of sound? Sound travels at different speeds through the atmosphere (as well as through different mediums), depending on atmospheric density and temperature. For example, at sea level, in average conditions of about 15 degrees C (59 degrees F), sound travels at around 1,223 kph (760 mph). But at higher altitudes, where the air is colder, sound travels more slowly.

Researchers with the Red Bull Stratos mission anticipate Baumgartner could break the sound barrier at about 30,480 meters (100,000 feet) above sea level, in temperatures of -23 to -40 C (-10 to -40 F) where sound travels at about 1,110 kph (690 mph) or roughly 304 meters per second (1,000 feet per second).

So, he’ll have to go faster than those speeds – or Mach 1 — to be supersonic.

While there is no literal “barrier,”the transition to supersonic speeds can cause problems for aircraft as transonic air movement creates disruptive shock waves and turbulence. Data obtained from Chuck Yeager’s first supersonic flight in 1947 allowed for changes in design of supersonic aircraft to avoid problems. Still, some aircraft still experience problems, and going supersonic has been attributed to some air disasters.

And the human body isn’t designed for supersonic speeds.

“Our biggest concern is that we don’t know how a human unencumbered by aircraft is going to transition through this,” said the project’s Medical Director Dr. Jonathan Clark, a flight surgeon for six space shuttle missions (and husband of astronaut Laurel Clark who died in the Columbia disaster in 2003), who has researched numerous aerospace disasters. “But it’s also exactly what we’re hoping to learn, for the benefit of future space flights.”

Documents provided by the Red Bull Stratos mission say that the data obtained from the mission will be shared with the scientific community, and Clark notes that he expects long-awaited medical protocols to be established as a result.

At the low temperatures and tenuous atmospheric conditions that Baumgartner will experience, he could suffer from hypothermia, the bends –if he gains altitude too fast during ascent –, or he could experience ebullism – the infamous condition where gas bubbles can form in the blood, and the blood basically “boils.”

Baumgartner wearing the David Clark Company suit. Credit: Red Bull Statos

That’s why his spacesuit is so important.

“I have absolute confidence the suit is going to work,” said Daniel McCarter, Program Manager for the David Clark Company, the same company that made Kittinger’s suit back in 1960, as well as full pressure suits for NASA astronauts and military pilots flying in aircraft that can reach the edge of the atmosphere. “Every time someone jumps a suit system like this there is something to learn. We learn knowledge for future systems.”

Art Thompson, the mission’s Technical Project Director, added, “We are ultimately risking life. Felix realizes that his life is on the line. Our job is to do everything we can from an engineering and technical point of view to keep him safe.”

The suit Baumgartner will use is custom-made for him, so there should be no pressure points caused by the suit that would make him uncomfortable, but any pressure suit restricts mobility and dexterity. He will have to avoid movements that could cause him to go into an uncontrollable spin.

Baumgartner is not new to jumping. He owns several world records for B.A.S.E. jumping and is well known for skydiving across the English Channel in 2003. He is also a parachutist, stunt coordinator and a commercial helicopter pilot.

“I think I’ve always been one of those guys who wanted to be in the places where no one has been before. It’s inside your body or brain,” Baumgartner said in a video on the Red Bull Stratos website. “When I was a kid, I liked to climb up trees –I always wanted to be on top of something.”

This will definitely be an attempt to go where no one has gone before.

For more information on the mission, visit the Red Bull Stratos website, or Felix Baumgartner’s website.