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Sage Cheshire Aerospace News & Events

April 9, 2017

Freefalling From The Edge of Space

By Peter W. Merlin
Special to Aerotech News
April 7, 2017

What is it like to freefall through the airless void more than 100,000 feet above the Earth?


Visitors to the recent Los Angeles County Air Show at Fox Field in Lancaster had the opportunity to find out from people who have done it. Speakers at one of several history panels included retired Air Force Col. Joseph W. Kittinger II, the first man to parachute from the stratosphere in 1960; Art Thompson, technical project director for the Red Bull Stratos project, in which Felix Baumgartner broke the speed of sound in freefall after jumping from 128,100 feet in 2012; and former Google senior vice president Alan Eustace, who set the record for the highest jump two years later after being carried aloft by a balloon to an altitude of 135,890 feet.

Kittinger told the audience how he was only a young captain when was assigned in 1958 to the Escape Section of the Aeromedical Laboratory at Wright Air Development Center in Dayton, Ohio. There, he became test director for Project Excelsior, an investigation of the use of parachutes for escape from spacecraft or high-altitude aircraft. In November 1959, he traveled to New Mexico with a team of about a dozen Air Force researchers and began preparations for stratospheric balloon flights including high-altitude parachute jumps from above 63,000 feet, the altitude at which fluids in the human body begin to “boil” or vaporize at normal body temperature.

This meant Kittinger would require a pressure suit for protection as he rode in an open basket beneath the helium-filled balloon. But a more pressing problem was the tendency of human bodies falling through ultra-thin air to accelerate into uncontrollable flat spins, producing centrifugal forces sufficient to cause cerebral hemorrhage and death. “We dropped dummies from high altitudes and they spun at around 200 rpm,” Kittinger recalled, “which was enough to kill a person.”

He credited Air Force technician Francis Beaupré with solving the problem through the use of a multi-stage parachute system that featured a stabilizing drogue chute. It was the forerunner of the type of equipment used in emergency ejection systems for high-speed and high-altitude aircraft. “Today, every ejection seat in the world uses a small drogue chute for stabilization,” said Kittinger.

On Nov. 16, 1959, he rode the Excelsior I balloon to 76,400 feet and jumped. His initial freefall was nearly flawless, but Kittinger’s stabilizer drogue deployed early and wrapped around his neck. He began to spin uncontrollably at 120 revolutions per minute and soon lost consciousness. Fortunately, his emergency parachute opened automatically at 10,000 feet, slowing his descent and saving his life. Despite this temporary setback, Kittinger made a second attempt with Excelsior II on Dec. 11. This time, he jumped from an altitude of 74,700 feet and fell approximately 55,000 feet before opening his chute.

On Aug. 16, 1960, Kittinger ascended to 102,800 feet in Excelsior III, surpassing an altitude record set by Maj. David Simons, who had climbed to 101,516 feet in the Manhigh II balloon three years earlier. Floating above 99 percent of Earth’s atmosphere in temperatures as low as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, Kittinger was too occupied to savor his achievement. Loaded down with parachute gear and life-support equipment that nearly doubled his weight during the 90-minute ascent, he also endured severe pain in his right hand due to a leaking glove. This fact he kept to himself for fear the mission would be scrubbed before achieving peak altitude.

Some 12 minutes after the balloon leveled off, Kittinger stepped off and began his long freefall. “There was no sense of motion whatsoever,” he recalled, “and it was perfectly silent because there weren’t enough air molecules to transmit sound.”

Plummeting through the stratosphere for 13 seconds, he reached a maximum speed of around 614 miles per hour, or 0.91 Mach, just below the speed of sound. He slowed as the atmosphere became denser and felt a great sense of relief when his stabilizer chute deployed. Four and a half minutes later, a standard 28-foot parachute opened at about 17,500 feet, allowing him to float to a safe landing at White Sands Missile Range near Alamogordo, N.M.

Although Kittinger was subsequently credited with three world records; the highest open-gondola balloon ascent, the longest freefall and the longest parachute descent, he emphasized that these milestones were merely an incidental byproduct of a military research project.

“We weren’t trying to set any records,” he said. “To me, this was just a test flight with only two objectives: to put a man into the space environment, and to design a system to provide a means of escape from very high altitude.”

Kittinger noted that proving a human could function in near-space and that parachuting from the stratosphere was technically feasible required teamwork and operational discipline. “It takes three things to do a program like this,” he said. “You have to have confidence in your equipment, confidence in your team, and confidence in yourself, and I had all of those.”

More than half a century later, Kittinger assisted the Red Bull Stratos team’s successful bid to make an even higher jump, an effort spearheaded by engineer Art Thompson, who co-founded Sage Cheshire Aerospace, Inc., in Lancaster, Calif. During the recent panel discussion, Thompson described how he conceptualized and drove the design, engineering and fabrication of the flight vehicle, life support systems and flight-testing. He said the project was inspired by a phone call from Austrian skydiver and daredevil Felix Baumgartner in 2010, asking how he might break Kittinger’s records. The ensuing effort eventually received sponsorship from the Austrian company that makes Red Bull Energy Drink.

“I pitched it to Red Bull as a full scientific program,” said Thompson, “not merely a stunt.” The Stratos project included manned and unmanned balloon flights, evaluation of different kinds of pressure suits, and design of a pressurized crew capsule. “We wanted that secondary safety [envelope] of a capsule,” he said, adding that, otherwise, “if the suit failed at altitude, Felix would be dead in 14 seconds.”

The suit ultimately selected was essentially the same as that used by pilots flying the U-2 and SR-71 at altitudes above 70,000 feet. It was modified for greater mobility, which provided valuable lessons for use in the manufacture of future space suits. Additionally, the capsule was designed to maintain a cabin pressure equivalent to an altitude of 16,000 feet, or 1,600 feet lower than conditions experienced by climbers at Mt. Everest Base Camp in Nepal. Baumgartner would, therefore, not have to be exposed to the stratospheric environment until the last 10 minutes before jumping.

To reach the upper stratosphere, Baumgartner rode in a helium-filled balloon made of 40 acres of ultrathin plastic no thicker than a typical dry cleaning bag. When fully inflated, it was as wide as a football field, making it the largest balloon in the world. As testing of the system progressed Baumgartner made two practice jumps from altitudes of 71,581 and 96,650 feet. He soon discovered that his greatest challenge was staving off an intense feeling of claustrophobia from being confined within his pressure suit during the long slow ascent. Additionally, according to Thompson, the Austrian was used to working alone and had some difficulty adjusting to a situation where he had to rely on his fellow team members.

Finally, on Oct. 14, 2012, exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier flying in an experimental rocket powered airplane, Baumgartner ascended to a peak altitude of 128,100 feet. He depressurized his capsule, opened the hatch, and stepped out into space. Approximately 50 seconds later, he was at 91,316 feet and falling at a speed of 833.9 miles per hour, or Mach 1.24. He had become the first person to break the sound barrier without vehicular power. Additionally, he broke world records for highest freefall exit altitude and highest manned balloon flight, though he left the longest freefall record to project mentor Joe Kittinger.

During his initial freefall, without a drogue, Baumgartner began to spin but quickly regained control. His speed caused a small sonic boom that he never felt, but which was heard on the ground. After deploying his parachute, he landed on his feet in the desert near Roswell, N.M.

Around the same time the Red Bull team was beginning their project, Alan Eustace conceived an idea to develop a self-contained commercial spacesuit that would allow human beings to explore high-altitude regions of Earth’s atmosphere as easily and safely as scuba divers explore the depths of the ocean.

To tackle this challenge, he hired Paragon Space Development Corporation to lead a project he dubbed the Stratospheric Explorer, or StratEx. With additional help from spacesuit manufacturer ILC Dover, it took 18 months to prepare Eustace for his historic jump. Unlike earlier projects, there would be no capsule or gondola. Eustace planned to simply hang suspended in his suit beneath a balloon containing 35,000 cubic feet of helium. “My project was kind of a stepping-stone along this path of high-altitude exploration and escape systems,” Eustace said. He explained that the self-contained suit simplified the task immensely. “You don’t have to worry about two environments, the suit and a capsule.”

There was another difference, too. Unlike the Red Bull Stratos project, which was undertaken with a great deal of publicity before and during the event, Eustace and the StratEx team labored in utmost secrecy for almost three years and carried just two GoPro cameras to capture his jump.

At dawn on Oct. 24, 2014, Eustace ascended from an abandoned airport runway near Roswell. He climbed at a constant rate of 1,100 feet per minute for a little more than two hours, ultimately reaching an altitude of 135,890 feet — a new world record. At a signal from the ground, a small explosive device released Eustace for his 15-minute descent. Plummeting toward the ground, he managed to make two backflips that allowed him brief glimpses of his balloon. “The view was amazing,” he said. “I saw the darkness of space and the curvature of the Earth.”

Eustace broke several records including national record for highest exit altitude, world and national records for freefall under a drogue chute, and national record for vertical speed. Additionally, with a top speed of 822 miles per hour, he became the second person to break the sound barrier outside an aircraft. Baumgartner still holds the records for vertical freefall distance without a drogue and vertical speed without a drogue.

Eustace explained that his feat was simply part of a larger effort to explore the upper atmosphere and solve the problems of stratospheric freefall, building on the work of pioneers like Kittinger. “We all faced the same problem but everybody solved it a different way and we all learned from each other.” He noted that using a self-contained life-support system meant it was possible to use any type of vehicle — sailplane, rocket, etc. — to reach the stratosphere and return safely. “By separating the question of how you survive from how you get up there, it opens up some possibilities.”

Art Thompson pointed out that more than three billion people viewed the Red Bull Stratos mission via television and streaming media. “It inspired many young people to consider careers in science and engineering,” he said.

Kittinger emphasized value of teamwork and demurred, “I was just fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.” He said he was proud to be a part of both Project Excelsior and the Red Bull Stratos team, and praised the StratEx project as well. “We all worked to improve our scientific knowledge for the good of Mankind.”

Full article and photos can be found on Aerotech News.


November 10, 2014

Skydive Talk Inspires Discovery Students

Valley Press Staff Writer
Antelope Valley Press, Wednesday, November 5, 2014

LANCASTER – “Rock stars” for Discovery School‘s science, technology, engineering and mathematics students are people like Art Thompson, CEO of Sage Cheshire Aerospace, the Lancaster company behind the record-breaking Red Bull Stratos skydive from the edge of space.

About 230 students in Discovery’s STEM Academy, as well as some fourth- and fifth-grade students in the Gifted And Talented Education program, heard Thompson’s first-hand account of the planning and testing leading up to the moment Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner stepped from a capsule nearly 128,000 feet high on Oct. 14, 2012.

Art Thompson 1Above, Art Thompson, founder of Sage Cheshire Aerospace and designer of the capsule used by daredevil Felix Baumgartner in his record-setting jump from the stratosphere, at right, talks to Discovery School STEM Academy students Monday afternoon.
RUBY ALVARADO / Valley Press

Sage Cheshire designed and built the pressurized capsule that carried Baumgartner aloft beneath a giant balloon.  More than 3 billion people, nearly half of the world’s population, watched video images of the jump.

Baumgartner reached Mach 1.25, or 843.6 miles per hour, during his four-minute, 20-second supersonic free fall. The jump came 65 years to the day that pilot Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier in the X-1 at what is now Edwards Air Force Base. Yeager traveled at Mach 1.05 in his aircraft.

Besides building the capsule, Thompson and his Sage Cheshire firm were responsible for the modified spacesuit that protected Baumgartner during his dive.

Thompson, with Mike Todd, life support engineer for the project, showed a video of Baumgartner’s jump, with the voice of retired Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger guiding Baumgartner at the start.

Baumgartner’s jump broke an altitude record set by Kittinger in 1960 as part of an Air Force program to study and solve problems of escaping aircraft at high altitudes.

Thompson said Kittinger and test pilot Bill Weaver, who survived the midair breakup of an SR-71 Blackbird spyplane, inspired him.

The students gasped the moment Baumgartner stepped from the capsule and fell silent as he sped toward earth and a safe landing. The students applauded the film.

Thompson’s message resonated with the students.

“We all got to learn about how they built the aircraft and what inspired them … and how much work and inspiration and how much hard work and dedication that they had toward accomplishing this big event,” eighth-grader Sara Brice said.

Sara, 14, added she learned how much dedication she will need to accomplish her goals, “and to always have faith in what we want.”

The teen, who wants to be a medical engineer, said Thompson inspired her.

“He just pretty much told us to take wanting, no matter how many people say it’s impossible, you can make it possible,” she said.

Eighth-grader Jalen Gumayagay, 13, most enjoyed learning about the different mechanics that went into the capsule and the space suit.

“What I learned about this amazing event is how it was performed, all the hard work and dedication and enthusiasm that they put into this project, and how they were able to pull it off, and the results and the rewards that occurred afterwards,” Jalen said.

Art Thompson 4

RUBY ALVARADO / Valley Press

Sixth-grader Jordan Hayen, 11, liked watching the video.

“I learned that you shouldn’t let people discourage you, that you should relentlessly pursue your goals no matter how people try to discourage you,” said Jordan, who wants to be an inventor and build weapons to stop terrorism when she gets older.

Seventh-grader Isaiah Jones, 12, said he wants to work in aeronautics when he’s older.

“I was always very interested in stuff that flies,” Isaiah said, adding that he has tried to make Lego models fly. “Basically what I learned today is never let failure put you down. If you fail, try again.”

The Red Bull Stratos program was a privately funded space program.

Thompson showed pictures from the various stages of the project’s development and talked about the math behind Baumgartner’s jump and how to ensure the daredevil’s safety.

He explained why they chose the David Clark space suit, the same kind of suit used by U-2 pilots and space shuttle astronauts, and what can happen to a person’s blood when there is not enough pressure in the atmosphere to hold gas molecules in it.

Red Bull funded the scientific research with the understanding that Sage Cheshire could then collect and share the data with NASA, the Air Force and different private space organizations to help develop emergency escape systems for future space travel, improved space suits and a better understanding of human physiology.

Thompson’s background is in aerospace research and development. His work experience includes work in developing the stealthy characteristics of the B-2 bomber with Northrop Grumman. He was able to draw on his years in this field to assemble a team of experts for the Red Bull Stratos project.

His presentation also included pictures and a brief explanation of Arturo’s Desert Eagle, the world’s largest paper airplane at 45 1/2 feet long with a 24-foot wingspan. The plane weighed 800 pounds and used 20 gallons of wood glue.

Thompson built the paper airplane while the team was still working on the Red Bull Stratos project.

“This gives you an idea. You’re students, so when you’re told no, that it’s impossible, it can’t be done, this is an example of the thinking outside of the box. Think of the crazy things that you believe you can do and try to think that it’s possible if you want to do it,” Thompson said.

Todd showed off a spacesuit worn by space shuttle astronaut Charlie Bolden and explained the difference between Bolden’s suit and the one worn by Baumgartner. He also explained the science behind Baumgartner’s suit and how it protected him.

Prior to starting Sage Cheshire, Thompson was in charge of the radar cross-section – otherwise known as the stealth team – for Northrop Grumman’s B-2 stealth bomber program. His own company has developed and manufactured specialized products for NASA, Raytheon and Boeing.

Eighth-grader Marijane Garcia said she, too, learned that she can always pursue her goals no matter how impossible they seem.

“With the paper airplane, that was pretty cool,” Marijane said. “Me, myself, wanting to become a test pilot or an astronaut, this was very inspiring.”

Fifth-grader Michael Southworth, 10, learned that failure is an option.

“It’s not something that has to come. If you don’t want to put in the effort and the dedication, then go and pick that option. But if you want to succeed, if you want to do the amazing accomplishment that they did, then you have to push through it,” Michael said, gesturing toward Thompson and Todd.


October 31, 2014

Stratospheric Exploration and the Records That Still Stand

31 October 2014


On October 24, 2014, reports indicated that American Alan Eustace completed a stratospheric parachute descent that topped the altitude record set by the Red Bull Stratos mission of October 14, 2012. This is a great achievement that deserves honest respect and acknowledgement. Red Bull Stratos was a scientific mission to prove that humans could survive accelerating through the sound barrier in free fall. Learnings are already being applied by organizations including the US Air Force and NASA and were intended to accelerate interest in aerospace science, engineering and medicine.
The two attempts were quite different in their approach. While little official data is available, the following information is based on current media reports.

Which Red Bull Stratos records were broken by Alan Eustace?

Official information may not be available for some time, as all record claims must be submitted to the world governing body, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) for review and ratification, a process that may take weeks or months. However, because Alan Eustace used a drogue/stabilization parachute to stabilize his descent, it’s expected that most of the categories in which he might be eligible for records will be different than those set by Felix Baumgartner.

Records of Felix Baumgartner that still stand:

• First person to break the speed of sound in free-fall, without the protection or propulsion of a vehicle

• Maximum Vertical Speed without Drogue or Stabilization Device (official FAI category): 843.6 mph / 1,357.6 kmh
Eustace’s effort would not fall into the same category because he did use a drogue/stabilization device. Further, the New York Times reports that Eustace’s top speed was 822 mph, slower than Felix’s top velocity.

• Vertical Distance of Free-fall without Drogue or Stabilization Device (official FAI category): 119,431.1 feet / 36,402.6 meters Eustace’s descent distance would not be eligible in the same category as Felix because, unlike Felix, Eustace used a drogue/stabilization parachute.

Record of Felix Baumgartner that appears to have been broken:

• Highest Exit Altitude (official FAI category): 38,969.4 meters / 127,852.4 feet above mean sea level
The New York Times reports that the altitude being submitted to the FAI for Alan Eustace’s descent is 135,890 feet (equivalent to 41,420 meters). It’s assumed that the Highest Exit Altitude category is not impacted by whether the subject used a drogue/stabilization parachute; if that is the case, Eustace’s exit will break Felix’s altitude record. It will be necessary to wait for FAI ratification to know for certain.

Why was it possible for Alan Eustace to complete such a flight without a capsule and much less “obvious effort?”

Throughout history, aerospace projects have built on the knowledge gained by those that have gone before. Red Bull Stratos benefited from the learnings of Joe Kittinger’s Excelsior III jump in 1960. In turn the Red Bull Stratos team hoped that the insights gained in developing Felix’s flight test program would inform future programs – making the experience safer and easier for those who followed.

Eustace’s effort benefited from knowledge gained during Red Bull Stratos: former members of the Red Bull Stratos team with expertise in meteorology, aerospace medicine and balloon flight appear to have been consulted.

As for why it was possible for Eustace to make his ascent without a capsule: Part of research and learning is trying out different approaches. Joe Kittinger didn’t ascend in a capsule either – he used an open gondola. The Red Bull Stratos team directed by Art Thompson and Sage Cheshire Aerospace insisted on the use of a pressurized enclosed capsule for safety. A pressurized capsule made it less likely that Felix would experience decompression sickness, and provided a backup life support system in the case anything happened to his pressure suit. The suit manufacturer, David Clark Company, approved the first sale of space suits to Sage Cheshire Aerospace because of the obvious scientific nature of the program and the capsule environment that was a prerequisite of the program flight test team.

And finally, the capsule enabled extensive data capture for research purposes and also enabled use of the camera systems that not only monitored Felix’s well-being throughout the flight, but also shared the historic event with the world. In fact technology from the capsule development and high altitude cinematography have in themselves been valuable on many levels in the aerospace industry. As just one example, Art Thompson, the program’s technical director, reports that after studying the atmosphere created in Felix’s capsule, the altitude pressure inside U-2 aircraft has been changed to reduce pilots’ decompression sickness. The size of the balloon is determined by the payload it has to carry, which directly effects the complexity of the launch procedure. The Red Bull Stratos balloon was 30 MCF, the largest manned balloon ever flown and capable of flying larger scientific payloads.

How was it possible for a 57-year-old who is not a professional athlete to make such a jump?

One difference between Eustace’s jump and Felix’s was that Eustace used a drogue parachute – a small stabilization parachute designed to reduce the tendency of objects to spin uncontrollably when falling from high altitudes.

To have the best chance of reaching the speed of sound, Felix did not want to use the drogue available in his parachute rig unless absolutely necessary. Even though the drogue would have made his descent easier physically, it would have slowed him. So in addition to the 20 years of experience he already possessed as a skydiver and BASE jumper, he trained specifically on how to use body movements to control spinning. Even so, Felix did enter a spin during his free-fall, and it took all of his skill and experience to stop it without using his drogue.

As a result, many experts agreed with Joe Kittinger when he deduced after Felix’s jump that “if a highly trained jumper with 2,500 jumps [Felix] is unable to prevent spinning following egress from extreme altitudes, an astronaut, pilot or space tourist could not overcome this spinning probability” and that “future exploration to qualify a drogue parachute for extreme altitudes is certainly indicated.”

The lift-off of a capsule to the stratosphere has to be just perfect to prevent spinning and tumbling right from the start. It has to be carefully integrated into the egress scenario extensively, and requires perfect coordination and planning.

Was all the time, effort and technology involved in Red Bull Stratos really necessary, or was it for the sake of marketing?

The Red Bull Stratos technical project director, Art Thompson, and the team felt that the effort was absolutely necessary to achieve the mission’s objectives, the most important of which was to keep Felix Baumgartner safe. In trying to break the speed of sound in free-fall for the first time, the mission was facing many unknowns and needed to proceed as a flight test program with a progressive scientific build up and procedures. Team members including Col. Joe Kittinger expressed interest in joining the program only if it was to be carried out with the highest safety standards, and Thompson has often said, “Even our backup systems had backup systems.” Further, in addition to protecting Felix, the project’s scope was extensive to provide the best possible scientific data in a variety of areas for future applications.

Will Red Bull Stratos challenge this new altitude record?

Red Bull Stratos was a pioneering scientific test program that fulfilled its purpose: By realizing his long-held dream of becoming the first person ever to break the speed of sound in free-fall, Felix Baumgartner and the team proved that it was possible to safely accelerate through the sound barrier without the protection or propulsion of a vehicle – important information that the scientific community had long debated. The mission provided useful data that other researchers at agencies like NASA and the U.S. Air Force are already building upon to improve aerospace safety, including researchers considering how emergency escape may someday be possible from aircraft at ultra-high altitudes. Felix Baumgartner and the program’s team of leading experts always hoped that the results of their five-year scientific flight test program would provide valuable new information and accelerate interest in aerospace science, engineering and medicine. Sage Cheshire Aerospace continues to develop systems for space safety and launching stratospheric payloads promoting scientific learning and STEM education.


September 12, 2014

A Look Inside Sage Cheshire Aerospace

Here’s a quick look inside Sage Cheshire Aerospace and what we do. This presentation was made for our September, 2014 appearance at the 58th Annual SETP (Society of Experimental Test Pilots) Symposium & Banquet in Anaheim, California.


July 10, 2014

9th Physiological Support Squadron at Beale AFB

On 26 June 2014 the 9th Physiological Support Squadron held a change of command ceremony at Beale Air Force Base in Northern  California. Lt Col Brian T. Musselman passed his command via Col. Jody L. Ocker, Commander, 9th Medical Group to the new and current commander of the 9th PSPTS Lt. Col. Lance Annicelli.


Sage Cheshire Aerospace has collaborated with the 9th PSPTS on high-altitude projects and our technology is helping train a new generation of high-flying pilots anticipate and mitigate risk in the lethal environment in which they operate.

The 9th PSPTS does amazing work around the globe and we support their mission with practical lessons learned on Stratos as well as with realistic training mockups. The origins of physiological support of high-altitude reconnaissance can be traced back to the 1950s when the U-2 first went into service, venturing past the Armstrong line where humans cannot exist without the proper equipment.


There are many specialty units like the 9th PSPTS in our armed forces and they don’t always get the credit they deserve. Congratulations to outgoing Commander Lt Col Brian Musselman on a job well done and sincere wishes to incoming Commander Lt Col Lance Annicelli for success in your new post.





The U2 fuselage mock up built at Sage Cheshire Aerospace.  Studies from testing conducted on Red Bull Stratos with the Sage Cheshire Aerospace science and engineering team along with chief physiologist Dr. Andrew Pilmanis contributed to changes on high altitude flight profiles.  Operating with higher cabin altitude pressure as on the Red Bull Stratos capsule has reduced DCS decompression sickness for long high altitude flights.


July 1, 2014

How Do You Relate to Outer Space?

One of our friends is the meteorologist at CBS 8 in San Diego, and a classy one at that. Natasha Stenbock posted this blog entry on their web site and we appreciate it very much.


May 8, 2014

Will You Help Preserve Aviation History?

If you’re aviation nuts like we are, or even if you’re not, the opportunity to learn some factoids about our favorite planes is always thrilling.

This is the primary reason we love and support the Flight Test Historical Foundation (FTHF) and its efforts on behalf of the Air Force Flight Test (AFFT) Museum, currently located on Edwards AFB near Lancaster, CA.


What kind of stuff does it take for planes to take flight? The right stuff.

What kind of stuff does it take for a museum to honor our flying heritage and the brave men and women whose flight testing took us to the clouds and beyond? More of the same.

We at Sage Cheshire Aerospace, the creative, technical and mission-crititcal team behind Red Bull Stratos, have devoted some of that stuff to helping FTHF build the right facility to carry out its core mission.

For us, it’s the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the planes that we built as models when we were kids or that kept us up at night dreaming of being able to fly them and what that would be like.

Did you know they have a “Blackbird” SR-71, and that you can walk up to it and see what made it so cool? Did you also know that on occasion pilots who flew these planes are available as a docents and can answer your questions about them?


Did you also know that you could personally sponsor this plane and have your contribution to FTHF memorialized in front of the plane?

Sure, it seems like we’re asking a lot of rhetorical questions, but some of our friends honestly didn’t know that there is such a collection of aircraft and where such a collection was. And that happens to be right here in the Antelope Valley of California’s high desert, square in the heart of aerospace country.

Our neighbors are Lockheed Martin’s Skunkworks, Northrop Grumman, NASA Dryden and lots of innovative start-ups that are developing the next generations of aerospace technology to take us to the stars and beyond.

These are exciting times. And we need to look back as much as we look forward to make sure we remember the lessons learned by those who came before us and whose work and sacrifice gave us the tools on which to build the future.

There are lots of ways to help FTHF, big and small, from shopping at to making the kind of gift that helps the foundation attract matching funds from larger foundations. In fact, stage one of their campaign is nearly complete and if they reach their current goal by July 1, really good things will happen for them. Wouldn’t you like to be a part of that success?

We know you do, that’s why we made this little appeal. Some of the easiest ways to help are simply staying in touch with the Foundation on their social media channels:
FTHF on Facebook
FTHF on Twitter

Hey, as long as you’re shopping online, use their AmazonSmile link which will kick back funds to the foundation seamlessly and at no additional cost to you while you shop. What could be better?

You can buy some really clever items from their store –>>

You can also “get friendly” with the Museum (as we have) –>>

If you are passionate about flying or if you’ve flown some of the planes in their inventory, please consider making a meaningful gift to FTHF so that these planes can be enjoyed by everyone and the museum can become one of the most important tourist attractions in the area.

There is an urgency to our appeal. We need to help the Foundation raise about $100k between now and July 1 in order for them to receive a significant bonus from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. There are lots of tangible rewards for your tax-deductible gifts. If you can’t help, perhaps you know someone who can. Let us know if we can help you help us help them.

FTHF logo 640


April 1, 2014

Sage Cheshire and Emory Motorsports Develop Hybrid-Warp Space Vehicle for NASA

April 1, 2014

Experimental Warp DriveCiting advances in theoretical physics and warp-drive propulsion systems, Sage Cheshire Aerospace announced today a joint venture with its partner Emory Motorsports to develop a hybrid high-speed transportation platform for NASA. Taking lessons learned from Red Bull Stratos about space suit design and life support systems in hostile environments, the team has developed all-new tools, procedures and a vehicle which will keep astronaut-explorers safe as they warp space-time.

Art Thompson, president of Sage Cheshire Aerospace said, “This thing is gonna be so cool, in more ways than one.” Using a modified Porsche power plant and the newest warp-drive technology, the vehicle, code-named “Huevos,” will be able to transport a small family to the outer reaches of the galaxy in no time, with some luggage.

Rod Emory of Emory Motorsports commented, “This is a design that stems from the first outlaw ‘Special’ constructed in 1998 on the occasion of Porsche’s 50th Anniversary. We want to explore space, but we want to do it in style.”

The announcement comes at the same time that a new exhibit featuring the Red Bull Stratos capsule and space suit opens at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.


March 25, 2014

Sage Cheshire-built Red Bull Stratos Graces Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

On April 2, 2014, a special exhibit featuring Red Bull Stratos will open to the public inside the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The capsule and spacesuit will eventually be on permanent display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Please support the museum and visit the exhibit. Take photos of yourself by the capsule and post them to our Facebook page.



January 31, 2014

Sage Cheshire’s Red Bull Stratos Featured in Breathtaking New Video


January 27, 2014

Stratos Stops at National Museum of the U.S. Air Force


The Red Bull Stratos installation at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, OH will be available through March 16 of this year. The exhibit was launched with a presentation featuring Col. (Ret.) Joe Kittinger, Art Thompson and Jonathan Clark. We encourage interested parties to visit the display, leave comments on our facebook page and to support the good work of the museum and all of its staff and volunteers.



November 27, 2013

High-Altitude Reconnaissance Community Keenly Feels Loss of Thomas Bowen

In Memoriam: Thomas Bowen (1932-2013)

By Susan Richardson

Tom-and-Felix-BaumgartnerOn 3 October 2013, Mr. Thomas Bowen passed away following an extended battle with respiratory illness. The high altitude reconnaissance community lost a true champion and mentor. Mr. Bowen entered the U.S. Air Force on 8 August 1949 as a life support technician. His first assignment was Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. He supported B-29 bombers, including the Enola Gay that was assigned to his squadron. He was also assigned to Mountain Home AFB, ID and Plattsburg AFB, NY, supporting B-47s and B-57s. Mr. Bowen’s first overseas assignment was with the South Korean Air Force, supporting P-51s. In 1956, he attended Pressure Suit School at Maxwell AFB, AL and disappeared into the “Black World.” His high altitude physiological support included all the early CIA pilots. In 1960, he was waiting in Norway to recover the aircraft of U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, who was shot down over the Soviet Union.
In 1974, as a civil servant, Mr. Bowen returned to the U.S. Air Force’s high altitude U-2 reconnaissance program at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. In 1976, when high altitude military reconnaissance was consolidated under the 9th Strategic  Reconnaissance Wing, he moved with the U-2 program to Beale AFB, CA. Mr. Bowen was a highly respected mentor, sharing his experience and knowledge with both life support and physiological training personnel. During his career, he personally trained hundreds of high altitude pilots, reconnaissance systems officers, and passengers. He recently trained high altitude jumper, Felix Baumgartner, who went on to break the high altitude free fall record [under Red Bull Stratos], jumping from a balloon 24 miles above the Earth in 2012. Mr. Bowen retired from his position as Technical Director of the 9th Physiological Support Squadron, Beale AFB, CA, in 2012, and was awarded the Outstanding Civilian Service award for demonstrated significant accomplishments, leadership, unusual competence, and significant impact upon the Air Force mission throughout his career.
In total, Mr. Bowen’s career spanned nearly six decades of service and includes 21 years active duty in the United States Air Force, 4 years with the Central Intelligence Agency in life sciences, and 36 years as Chief of Life Sciences and Technical Director for U-2/TR-1/ER-2/SR-71 high altitude intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (HAISR) programs. He provided technical guidance to Lockheed’s Skunk Works and the David Clark Company on aircraft life support systems, full pressure suit (FPS) development, and survival equipment. He has been primary consultant to all U-2 and SR-71 mishaps that involved life support systems. An innovator and forward thinker, he pushed to design mission-specific life support equipment including the seat kit configuration for harsh environments, the automatic deployment system, and the implementation of the zero-zero ejection seat capability for U-2/ER-2 aircraft.
Additionally, Mr. Bowen was instrumental in the development of FPS-specific training programs including high altitude chamber flights, egress training, water survival, and field escape and resistance programs tailored to the HAISR mission. He has ensured the advancement of life support systems for HAISR aircraft for the CIA, USAF, NASA, and international U-2 programs for the United Kingdom and China. In 2006, Tom was honored by the Aerospace Physiology Society with the Fred A. Hitchcock Award for Excellence in Aerospace Physiology.
Mr. Bowen was a true visionary and leader; his legacy of technical support to the DoD Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance programs will never be surpassed.


November 14, 2013

Art Thompson Inducted Into International Air & Space Hall of Fame

826591895_insideOn Saturday, November 16, 2013, the International Air & Space Hall of Fame will induct Art Thompson, Colonel Joe Kittinger and Felix Baumgartner for their distinguished work on the Red Bull Stratos project.

Art Thompson will share the spotlight with other Class of 2013 inductees who’ve bravely pioneered significant milestones in aerospace and aviation. Other notable inductees are Capt. Sullenberger, Co-Pilot Jeff Skiles and crew of US Airways Flight 1549, US Navy ace Dean “Diz” Laird, Apollo16, NASA’s Mission Control and WWII triple-ace Bud Anderson among others.

More information about the event and the Class of 2013 inductees can be found here –>>


October 22, 2013

Art Thompson to Present Stratos Findings to Royal Aeronautical Society October 24

L107_RedBullStratos by SageDocs


October 13, 2013

Stratos’ One Year Anniversary Celebrated With Live Webcast

Live Stratos Webcast October 14, 2013 • 9 am PST / 12 pm EST


June 23, 2013

Fluid Dynamics study of Red Bull Stratos

Computer fluid dynamics modeling of the Red Bull Stratos capsule in free fall: 156 fps (106 mph), minus 55 F, capsule door open, 2 degrees nose down, 80,000 feet in altitude.

Computer fluid dynamics modeling of the Red Bull Stratos capsule: 18 fps (under parachute), 50 degrees F, capsule door open, 2 degrees nose down,15,000 feet altitude.

The CFD analysis was done at Sage Cheshire using SolidWorks Computer Fluid Dynamics Software. SolidWorks was used to draft and design the Red Bull Stratos capsule, crush pad, life support and capsule electrical layout and deign.



June 4, 2013

Stratos Hops 777 to Salzburg

03 June 2013

Lufthansa Cargo flies Felix Baumgartner’s Red Bull space capsule
“Stratos” space capsule leaves the Californian desert for Salzburg, Austria

Kapsel3_200x115_01From air freight to space freight – Lufthansa Cargo flew the Red Bull “Stratos” space capsule from Los Angeles to Frankfurt at the weekend. In October 2012, Austrian extreme sport legend Felix Baumgartner jumped out of this very capsule from a height of almost 128,000 feet. In collaboration with the “Schaefer Trans Inc.” transportation company, the flying machine was moved on a flat-bed trailer from the facility of the “Sage Cheshire Aerospace” manufacturer in the Californian desert to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The 1.45-tonne capsule was then reloaded onto a Boeing 777F of AeroLogic, a joint venture between Lufthansa Cargo and DHL Express.

Following the transatlantic flight to Frankfurt, the space capsule was reloaded onto a special flat-bed trailer and transported to Salzburg. The capsule and the spacesuit worn by Felix Baumgartner will be displayed alongside other flying machines and sports cars in Hangar-7, Red Bull’s own aircraft museum in Salzburg Airport, in the future.

The safe transport of the space capsule was the main concern of Arthur Thompson, Project Manager and CEO of manufacturer Sage Cheshire Aerospace. “The biggest challenge is getting such a big object to its destination in one piece”, explained Thompson. “Thanks to our many years of experience with vehicle prototypes built by us and shipped to Europe with Lufthansa Cargo, I know that the company is very well equipped to handle large, heavy and especially irreplaceable cargo.”

Austrian Felix Baumgartner ascended into the stratosphere in the space capsule on 14 October 2012 with the aid of a helium balloon. From a height of 24,214 miles, he free-photofell towards the earth at speeds of up to 843.6 mph, setting multiple records in the process. Besides achieving the record for the highest altitude jump, Baumgartner was also the first person to break the sound barrier in a free fall. The jump was broadcast live on various media channels and on television worldwide and is considered one of the most successful marketing campaigns of all time.

Lufthansa Press Release


May 17, 2013

Art Thompson and Red Bull Stratos Team Receive Safety Pioneer Award


May 13, 2013 by Merryl Azriel

IAASS Lederer Safety Pioneer Award 2013

Tommaso Sgobba, IAASS President; Art Thompson CEO Sage Cheshire Aerospace and Dr. Michael Hawes Director of Human Space Flight Programs, Lockheed Martin Corp. (sponsor of the 2013 Jerome Lederer Safety Pioneer Award)

The International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS) has awarded the 2013 Jerome Lederer Safety Pioneer Award to Art Thompson and the Red Bull Stratos team who made possible Felix Baumgartner’s recordbreaking stratospheric skydive in October 2012.

“Art Thompson and The Red Bull Stratos Team have substantially advanced the human knowledge and capability for using high altitude parachuting as a means for ensuring safe crew escape during at least part of a space mission  and possibly one day ‘parachuting from space’ in case of emergencies,” explains IAASS President Tommaso Sgobba.

Art Thompson was Technical Project Director and the engineer behind the Red Bull Stratos capsule. Known for his creative approach to technical challenges, Thompson’s work has encompassed development of the B-2 stealth bomber for Northrop Corporation and design of the Batmobile for the film Batman & Robin. He co-founded Sage Cheshire Aerospace Inc., which took on the Red Bull Stratos challenge. The Red Bull Stratos team also includes space safety advocate and six-time NASA Space Shuttle crew surgeon Jonathan Clark who served as medical director for the undertaking, mentor and prior record holder Joe Kittinger, life support engineer Mike Todd, program manager and senior flight test engineer Marle Hewett, skydiving consultant Luke Aikins, and high performance director Andy Walshe.

Jerome Lederer award statueThe Jerome Lederer Space Safety Pioneer Award is awarded biennially to an individual or group who has made outstanding contributions in the field of space safety. The award consists of a solid silver handmade statuette reproducing the “Winged Victory,” or Nike (Greek for “victory”) of Samothrace, standing on a hemisphere representing the surface of Mars.

The award is named in honor of Jerome Lederer, an American aviation-safety pioneer. In 1947, Lederer organized the Flight Safety Foundation and was its director until 1967. In 1967, following the deaths of three astronauts at the Kennedy Space Center, NASA appointed Lederer director of the Office of Manned Space Flight Safety for the Apollo Program. In 1970, he became director of safety for all of NASA.

The award will be presented at the upcoming IAASS Conference Gala Dinner on May 22 in Montreal, Canada.


May 8, 2013

YouTube and Red Bull Media House Win Emmy

The 34th Annual Emmy Awards for Sports


Red Bull Stratos: Space Jump YouTube
Red Bull Media House

Executive Producers
Scott Bradfield, Werner Eksler, Charlie Rosene
Senior Producers
Scott Gillies, Claude Ruibal
Supervising Producers
Karin Bock-Leitert, Jochen Sterrer
David Brooks, Tim Katz, Jay Nementh, Madeline Zeringue
Phil Olsman
Associate Producers
Matthias Leister, Scott Lewers, Eileen O’Neil, Thomas Reidel, Robert Scanlon, Jacqueline Voss, Anna Wolferman
Associate Director
Jason Gaedke


April 21, 2013

Colonel Joseph Kittinger to Receive Henderson Award

Colonel Joseph Kittinger to Receive Henderson Award at June NAA Luncheon

From April-May 2013 The NAA Record

IMG_3379Colonel Joseph Kittinger, USAF, (Ret.) was selected to receive the 2013 Cliff Henderson Trophy, which will be presented to him at the NAA Luncheon on June 18, 2013 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia.
The Cliff Henderson Trophy, which resides at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, was established in 1960 by the National Aviation Club (now part of NAA) to honor the creator and Managing Director of the world-renowned National Air Races from 1928-1939. His work stimulated a generation’s interest in aviation and challenged the state of the art in aviation development.
In that spirit, the trophy is awarded to “. . .a living individual, group of individuals, or an organization whose vision, leadership or skill made a significant and lasting contribution to the promotion and advancement of aviation and aerospace in the United States.”
On August 16, 1960, Kittinger became an aviation pioneer with the “highest step in the world” when he made history as he ascended to 102,800 feet in a high-altitude balloon and jumped to Earth. During a distinguished Air Force career, Kittinger served as a test pilot, Squadron Commander, and Vice Wing Commander.
In addition, he spent 11 months as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. After retiring from the Air Force he set two world ballooning records and won numerous ballooning competitions. Kittinger is a NAA Elder Statesman of Aviation; was awarded a Lifetime Achievement in Aviation trophy from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; was made an Honorary U.S. Army Golden Knight; and is enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame, the U.S. Ballooning Hall of Fame and the National Skydiving Museum Hall of Fame. To date, he has logged more than 16,800 hours of flying time in over 93 aircraft. His adventures are detailed in his autobiography, Come Up and Get Me.
Most recently, Colonel Kittinger served as Capsule Communications as Mission Control’s primary point of radio contact with Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos Project. Click here to register for the June 18 NAA Luncheon where Kittinger will receive his award.


March 22, 2013

March 2013 Proclaimed California Aerospace Month

Monday, March 18

California Senator Steve Knight has been selected to serve as Chair of the Select Committee on Defense and Aerospace. He also introduced a Senate Concurrent Resolution to declare March 2013 as California Aerospace Month. Part of his immediate outreach was recognizing Sage Cheshire and the Red Bull Stratos team on their nomination for the Collier Trophy.



March 1, 2013

Excellence in Aviation Awards Go To Stratos Jump Team

The Air Force Flight Test Museum located at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California is dedicated to preserving the exciting history of Edwards AFB and its magnificent flight test heritage. The museum’s exhibits and its extensive collection of aerospace vehicles are a testament to mankind’s leaps forward in aerospace exploration and the dedication of the brave souls who led the way.

On Saturday, May 18, Please Join the Flight Test Historical Foundation as they honor the The Red Bull Stratos Jump Team of Felix Baumgartner, Pilot, Col. Joe Kittinger, CAPCOM and Art Thompson, Project Director with 2013 Excellence in Aviation Award.

Even if you cannot attend the ceremony itself, please consider supporting the Air Force Flight Test Museum and its mission of showcasing this critical part of aviation history.



February 22, 2013

FAI Ratifies New World Records

Felix Baumgartner (AUT) - Lifestyle


February 22, 2013

“The FAI has today ratified the 3 world records claimed by Austrian parachutist Felix Baumgartner for Maximum Vertical Speed, Exit Altitude and Vertical Distance of Freefall.”

“On 14 October 2012 and supported by a team of experts from the Red Bull Stratos Mission, Felix took off from Roswell, USA, aboard a pressurised capsule attached to a helium balloon. Wearing a specially designed suit, Felix was carried high into the sky up to an altitude of 38969.4m, where he exited the capsule and launched himself down towards Earth. Felix achieved a freefall distance of 36402.6 m and reached the speed of 1357.6 km/h before opening his parachute and landing safely on the ground.”

“By achieving these world records, Felix adds his name to the list of FAI world record holders which includes such prestigious air sport personalities as Charles Lindbergh, Yuri Gagarin and, more recently, Bertrand Piccard and Steve Fossett.”

“The FAI congratulates Felix on this great achievement.”

Sub-class: G-2 (Performance Records)
Category: General
Group: Speed Records
Type of record: Maximum Vertical Speed (without drogue)
Course/location: Roswell, NM (USA)
Performance: 1357,6 km/h
Parachutist: Felix Baumgartner (Austria)
Date: 14.10.2012

Sub-class :G-2 (Performance Records)
Category: General
Group: Altitude Records
Type of record: Exit Altitude
Course/location: Roswell, NM (USA)
Performance: 38969,4 meters
Parachutist: Felix Baumgartner (Austria)
Date: 14.10.2012

Sub-class: G-2 (Performance Records)
Category: General
Group: Altitude Records
Type of record: Vertical Distance of Freefall (without drogue)
Course/location: Roswell, NM (USA)
Performance: 36402.6 meters
Parachutist : Felix Baumgartner (Austria)
Date: 14.10.2012


February 13, 2013

Boost the Stratos Team toward the Collier Trophy

2012CollierLogoWashington, DC, February 4, 2013

The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) today announced that seven aviation and aerospace projects will compete for the prestigious 2012 Robert J. Collier Trophy.

The Collier Trophy, the “Greatest Award in Aviation,” has been the benchmark of aviation and aerospace achievement for over 100 years. Awarded annually “… for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America,” it has been bestowed upon some of the most important projects, programs, individuals, and accomplishments in our nation’s history. Past winners include the crews of Apollo 11 and Apollo 8, the Mercury 7, Scott Crossfield, Elmer Sperry and Howard Hughes. Projects and programs which have been the recipient of the Collier include the B-52, the Polaris Missile, the Surveyor Moon Landing Program, the Boeing 747, the Cessna Citation, the Gulfstream V, the F-22 and the International Space Station. The 2011 Collier was awarded to the Boeing Company for the 787 Dreamliner.

The nominees are:
• The Lockheed Martin Cargo Unmanned Aerial System
• The NASA/JPL Dawn Project Team
• The Gulfstream G650
• The United States Air Force MC-12 Project Liberty Team
• The NASA/JPL Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Project Team
• Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos Team
• The NASA/JPL Voyager Interstellar Mission Project Team

While not a popular vote you can help put the Stratos team over the top by casting your vote on the Flying Magazine web site. We all held our breath that day in October. Confirm what the world already knows about team Stratos’ contribution to astronautics in 2012.

NASA and ISS Winner of 2009 Collier Trophy


February 6, 2013

Felix Fell Faster

Supersonic skydiver reached 844 mph in record jumpFelix Baumgartner (AUT) - Action

Supersonic skydiver Felix Baumgartner was faster than he or anyone else thought during his record-setting jump last October from 24 miles up.

By MARCIA DUNN; AP Aerospace Writer
Published: Feb. 4, 2013 at 11:11 a.m. PST — Updated: Feb. 4, 2013 at 2:02 p.m. PST

January 2, 2013

Art Thompson (USA) - Manned flight one

Red Bull Stratos started 52 years ago as a mission from one of the most respected men I know, Joe Kittinger, a true American hero and living legend and who I am very proud to call my friend.  His achievement in aerospace led to a challenge to which so many would  aspire.  When my friend Felix Baumgartner requested that I assemble the team, design a program and flight test systems capable of reaching these goals, I gathered the best people I knew.  These living legends were not only the best in their fields, they were my peers, associates and friends from so many other amazing programs and accomplishments.  From multiple unique professional areas, they joined my call to advance aerospace technology and capture the imagination of the world while inspiring the next generation to see that anything is possible.

To the Stratos team, You have all become my associates on a truly fantastic journey. More importantly you are my family and my friends with whom I will be permanently forged together in time and history. Thank you Felix and Red Bull for helping us make history and for advancing medical and aerospace safety for future high-altitude manned flights.  We have inspired the world and the next generation to understand that anything is possible if you have the will and determination to see the vision and the future. Wishing  a happy and prosperous 2013 to the  Red Bull Stratos, Sage Cheshire, Riedel, FlightLine Films, ATA-A, Wyle, Media House Family, and all who supported us over the years with our dreams and vision.  I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with you all and look forward to our next adventure together.


December 14, 2012

Brian Utley Offers Inside Account of Felix Baumgartner’s New Speed Record


When Felix Baumgartner set a parachuting world record for maximum vertical speed (breaking the sound barrier in the process) on October 14, 2012 from an altitude of 128,100 feet, he had behind him a team that was essential to this dramatic mission. For example, Retired Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger, who made a jump in 1960 from 102,800 feet, was his adviser and radio link in the mission control center at Roswell Airport.

Project leader Art Thompson organized a bevy of highly qualified organizations and individuals that built and tested equipment such as the balloon, capsule and spacesuit designed to withstand the rigors of an altitude that no human had ever experienced. Meteorologists monitored and predicted the weather, the flight path and landing zone. Experts from the Air Force conducted the balloon launch, and a medical team was on hand to provide medical care and collect data that will benefit futurespace exploration.

Another critical person operating behind the scenes was Brian Utley, a member of the NAA Contest and Records Board, who served as the official observer of Baumgartner’s skydive on behalf of both NAA and the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), which certifies the world record.

Utley is an experienced observer who has overseen dozens of national and world aeronautic records. His role in planning the measurement and certification of this record began three years ago, which was two years before the flights began. “Early in the game Felix said he wanted to be the person to break the sound barrier,” he recalled, and his team worked tirelessly toward that goal.

There were five separate launches – the first two were unmanned to test the balloon, capsule, and operational readiness and to ensure the safety of the launches. “We learned something from each of these,” Utley said. “It allowed me to become much more proficient in evaluating the data and systems as we went along.” These were followed by two record-setting jumps earlier this year in March and July before the final jump in October.

“We accumulated enough data on his body drag from the first two jumps to be able to simulate what velocity he would attain on his free fall,” he explained. The preliminary data from the record-setting skydive indicates that Baumgartner broke the speed of sound at 672 mph at 111,000 ft. He reached his maximum speed of 834 mph at 92,550 which is 1.24 times the speed of sound. Utley pointed out that the speed of sound varies by temperature; at sea level it is approximately 760 mph, but as you rise through the atmosphere and the temperature gets much colder, the speed of sound decreases. For example at -70 degrees centigrade, the speed of sound is 645 mph – a difference of more than 100 mph.

Utley combined two measurements to calculate the data. The first is measurements made by a helium weather balloon that rose to 130,000 feet and radioed the temperature and wind speed as it climbed through the atmosphere, giving him a picture of the temperature all the way up plus being able to predict the drift and landing zone. Second, Baumgartner carried a chest pack with a GPS instrument that gave Utley his precise altitude and direction. It also calibrated time according to Greenwich Mean Time, allowing Utley to create a picture in three dimensions against the time clock and measure the fall as he accelerated second by second.

“There were three times in this flight that I consider the most dramatic,” Utley said. “The first was when the balloon was released and began to float up into the sky. The second is when Felix was standing on the step of the capsule getting ready to jump. It is so high he could see the curvature of the earth and know that there is nothing other than the atmosphere to slow him down as he fell. The third dramatic moment was seeing his parachute open; when we realized it was the main chute with the red side bars and not the plain white emergency chute, we knew Felix had deployed the parachute himself and was safe.”

Utley added, however, that “there are always some problems as you go along – nothing is ever perfect. We had the benefit of having more than one GPS recording device, which allowed me to fill in some gaps in the recording. For example, when he tumbles, the GPS receiver attached to the back of his helmet loses contact with the satellite.”

At one point during the jump, Baumgartner entered into a dangerous flat spin at a rate of one rotation per second. He did 16 rotations before recovering. “One thing the designers did was mount the chest pack as high on his chest as possible,” Utley noted. “This moved the center of gravity closer to his head so that it reduced the g-forces on his head which, fortunately, were not high enough for him to black out.”

Utley was in the retrieve helicopter in order to insure the integrity of the flight data and was among the first to greet Baumgartner when he landed. He witnessed Baumgartner raise his arms in thanks for a successful jump and reports that Baumgartner, when asked if he would do it again, said he “would be happy to go back to just being an ordinary helicopter pilot.”

NAA recognized Brian’s remarkable contributions recently at its Fall Awards Banquet when Contest and Records Director, Art Greenfield, presented him with NAA’s Certificate of Honor.


November 29, 2012

Brighton Hall Dreams Big With Sage Cheshire

November 28, 2012

Teaching kids to dream about and visualize great things is the goal of Sage Cheshire’s Art Thompson who, with a team of the world’s best minds, recently set new aerospace records with Red Bull Stratos, a mission to the edge of space.

The students and faculty of Brighton Hall, a K-12 college prep for young professionals, were the beneficiary of a master class on creativity in the context of aerospace on Wednesday. Art Thompson and Mike Todd presented an overview of Red Bull Stratos, a scientific mission to the edge of space.

The goal of the Stratos program was to understand human survivability outside of pressurized air- or spacecraft using vintage and modern technology. Taking people beyond the Armstrong line of about 62,000 vertical feet above the earth is a very tricky business due to the tendency of human blood to boil at and beyond that altitude without a pressure chamber.

The Stratos team learned many things during the mission, data that will be shared with NASA and others who dare to explore near space and beyond. A pressurized suit is necessary equipment to explore those environs and on display for students and faculty to examine was the actual suit Felix Baumgartner wore when he jumped from an altitude of more than 127,000 feet.

Stratos’ Life Support Engineer Mike Todd explained the reasons for this special suit and how it differed from other types of pressure suits used in aircraft. Since the mission involved a free-falling human, unique considerations had to be made in the construction, engineering and materials.

Art Thompson, Vice President of Sage Cheshire Aerospace which was the prime contractor for Red Bull Stratos, showed images and video from the mission to a rapt audience. He also spoke about the creative process from concept to execution to help those who dare to dream.

About a hundred students, parents and faculty attended the presentation. This is one lucky group to have been able to see the actual suit in which new records were set in the manned exploration of space.


October 29, 2012

The Second Day The Earth Stood Still

Worldwide Recognition Pours in as Felix Baumgartner and Team Stratos Highlight the Mission’s Contributions to Science

© 2012 Red Bull Content Pool

Salzburg (AUSTRIA) — “We think the sonic boom happened not as he went in to the sound barrier but when he slowed back down, said Dr. Jonathan Clark, the mission’s medical director and formerly a six-time Space Shuttle Crew Surgeon. “We hear the Shuttle when it comes back through the sound barrier; it makes the same noise. And so although this was quieter, when four teams on the ground in New Mexico, including expert personnel, all heard it, we knew that – no question – he broke the sound barrier.”

The team is analyzing the recording, including use of an algorithm typically employed by NASA, to precisely determine where the sonic boom occurred. But in the meantime, technical project director Art Thompson confirmed, “Having reached an estimated Mach 1.24, Felix is now definitely the fastest man on earth.”

While Baumgartner himself explained that he didn’t feel the shockwave as he passed through the speed of sound, Clark acknowledged that the team experienced some anxious moments, especially when Baumgartner went into a spin – which early analysis suggests lasted some 40 seconds before the 43-year-old managed to straighten out using skills trained over hundreds of simulations. “Felix was maximally prepared to deal with the spin, and he fully understood that the essence of the mission was a flight test program,” Clark noted. “We were concerned, but we were all prepared. Felix endured an incredible feat, and the essence of the program was his ability to go through the sound barrier and recover from the spin.”

Life support engineer Mike Todd agreed, “Felix started this program as a BASE jumper and skydiver and ended as a test pilot – he was the perfect guy for the job.” Clark also remarked, “For somebody to jump from near space and survive the transition through the sound barrier had never been done before, and this has contributed immensely to the survival advancements for future spacecraft. Already a lot of companies are talking about: What did we learn? How soon can we get this information? And so this is going to make a substantial difference. It was a true aviation milestone.”

Thompson added, “The fact that it was a flight test program was why we were able to assemble this leading team of experts to develop the mission; it was about science and learning – the process of saving people’s lives. We will analyze this data for months, if not years, to come. All of this furthers the future of aerospace – and from the reactions we’ve been seeing, it has also inspired a lot of young people to think about a career in aerospace or engineering: that’s really close to my heart.”

Sage Cheshire’s Art Thompson went on, “Our suit and capsule were safety devices that provided full life support of the kind that could be valuable if an aircraft has a breach in its hull. For safety, even our backup systems had backup systems. There is a lot of interest from NASA and the Air Force in the results.”

Noting that his parachute system was another important component that would have saved him even in the event of unconsciousness, Baumgartner said, “During the last five years, the team has concentrated on developing equipment and procedures for safety in what is essentially a bailout situation. I am going to stop now with BASE jumping because I have closed that chapter, but at the same time we have opened a new door for the safety of manned flight into space.”

The athlete, who the night before had joined the entire mission team for a two-hour live television special that recapped the historic achievement, noted that he is preparing to enter a new phase of his life as a helicopter pilot — a profession he’s dreamed of since childhood and for which he’s already licensed. “You need challenges, a reason to get up in the morning, and I will be flying mountain rescues,” he commented. “It will be interesting and I will still be in the air.”

Baumgartner is also preparing to take on a previously unforeseen role, as last week United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited him to become a youth ambassador for the organization. “In the next weeks I will process what has happened and work with the United Nations to find out how I can play a role,” Baumgartner said. “I would love to have kids of my own someday, but in the meantime it would be wonderful to work with children around the world.”

“My advice to Felix as he moves on is to take advantage of this opportunity to be an Ambassador for the UN and encourage the youth of the world,” said Col. Joe Kittinger, the mentor who held the records Baumgartner broke in New Mexico. Looking around at a team that besides Clark, Thompson, and Todd also included high performance director Andy Walshe and skydiving consultant Luke Aikins, Kittinger stated, “As for the rest of us, I am sure we will all look for other challenges, but we will never have one as exciting as Red Bull Stratos.”


October 20, 2012

Gizmodo Features Sage Cheshire’s Art Thompson


October 14, 2012

Mission Successful!


October 9, 2012

Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic freefall from 128k’ – Mission Highlights


October 8, 2012

How to watch Red Bull Stratos LIVE!


Supersonic Freefall – Red Bull Stratos CGI


Oct 8 2012 – 14:04







“I’ll probably feel the most anxious when I’m trying to sleep in the hours before I start getting ready – when everything’s quiet and it’s just me and my thoughts.” – Felix Baumgartner’s thoughts as he gets closer to launch time.

Here’s the plan leading up to launch time:

Launch Minus 24 Hours: Baumgartner will start the day before the jump with a light cardio-based workout, mostly to “relax and loosen up,” according to Red Bull High Performance Director Andy Walshe.

Minus 18h30: The 43-year-old Austrian will return to his hotel to rest up. If he’s not ready to nap, Baumgartner can pass the time talking with his close friends and family, reading messages of support that have been pouring in from around the globe, drawing in his sketchbook – a pastime that he says helps to clear his mind – or mentally reviewing his checklists for the mission.

Minus 13h30: Baumgartner will join members of the crew for a light early dinner, but the food on his plate will be unique. For at least 24 hours before his jump, he must stick to a low-fiber diet prescribed by the mission’s medical team. It is vital for him to eat only foods that will clear his system quickly, without leaving residue that could create gas: a condition that can cause problems in the low-pressure of the stratosphere because it can expand in the body and cause serious discomfort.

Minus 12h00: Baumgartner will attempt to get to sleep early – before the sun has even set. He’ll try to eliminate every glimmer of outside light and shut out the noise of circulation fans or other guests in the halls. It is essential that he try to get some sleep before his pre-dawn wake-up call, even though he will certainly be wondering what he’ll experience in his attempt to become the first person to break the speed of sound in freefall.

Minus 4h30: “When I need to ready, I’m always ready,” Baumgartner often says. And while he will try to sleep as long as possible, he’ll need to rise four to five hours before dawn to be ready for the intense day ahead.

Minus 3h30: Baumgartner will arrive at the launch site, accompanied by Walshe. Mission team leaders including Col. Joe Kittinger, Technical Project Director Art Thompson, and Meteorologist Don Day will provide a personal briefing on the launch preparations so far, which will have been underway for five hours.

Minus 4h00: Baumgartner will head to the runway where, as is habitual for the experienced pilot before every flight, he will conduct a meticulous inspection of the capsule.

Minus 2h30: In Baumgartner’s personal trailer, he will undergo a final medical check, and a compact, state-of-the-art physiological monitoring system will be strapped to his chest to be worn under his pressure suit throughout the mission.

Minus 2h00: Life Support Engineer Mike Todd will dress Baumgartner in his suit, a painstaking process, and the Austrian will ‘pre-breathe’ oxygen for two hours to eliminate nitrogen from his bloodstream, which could expand dangerously at altitude. Videos will help pass the time as he awaits the announcement that his balloon inflation has begun and he can move to the capsule.

Minus 0h30: Baumgartner will be strapped into his capsule chair to conduct final instrument checks as directed by Mission Control. Then Capsule Engineer Jon Wells will seal the clear acrylic door. For a several more long minutes of anticipation, Baumgartner will await countdown and, finally, launch.


October 6, 2012

Dress Rehearsal – Oct 06 2012 13:56

Advanced high-definition cinematography cameras will beam real-time images of Felix Baumgartner’s every move in the Red Bull Stratos space capsule, providing interior and exterior points of view during the mission. And when Felix jumps, he’ll be wearing five high-definition cameras, giving you the feeling you’re right there with him in the descent.

In addition to documenting the record-breaking jump Felix’s experience will also be captured by powerful long-range and infrared cameras on the ground, as well as by a helicopter hovering near his flight path. The live stream of Felix’s jump will be available on, on partner sites and carried by more than 50 TV and Internet channels around the globe, in advance of a BBC documentary this fall.

Jay Nemeth (FlightLine Films), the mission’s director of high-altitude photography, and his team have been working to meet the challenges of the lethal stratosphere for the last five years. The Red Bull Stratos capsule and Baumgartner’s pressure suit have more HD cameras than most 45-foot TV production trucks. “We have basically created a flying video production studio,” Nemeth said.

Who ensures secure signals from the capsule back to earth? Riedel Communications, renowned for its advanced fiber, intercom and radio technology – provides the entire communications solution for the mission, integrating both wireless and wired digital intercom systems. Riedel furnishes the fiber-based video and signal distribution as well as the wireless video links to the capsule’s onboard cameras – enabling stunning pictures to be delivered from the Red Bull Stratos capsule to ground control.

Tags: Red Bull Stratos, FlightLine Films, Riedel Communications


July 25, 2012

Red Bull Stratos Completes 2nd Manned Flight

Wednesday morning, July 25, at 8:12 Mountain time, Red Bull Stratos jumper Felix Baumgartner exited a stratospheric balloon from approximately 97,000 feet for a freefall of 3 minutes 55 seconds. He reached an unofficial speed of 536 mph before deploying his parachute at approximately 13,000 feet above sea level, 8,000 feet above the desert southwest of Roswell, New Mexico.

USPA Director of Competition Jim Hayhurst and the National Aeronautic Association’s Brian Utley served as official observers. Pending analysis of GPS data, the Stratos team may potentially claim three new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world records. Two are almost 50 years old, both held by Major Yevgeny N. Andreyev of the Soviet Union, who in 1962 jumped from a balloon gondola 83,529 feet above sea level, freefalling 80,380 feet before deploying his parachute. Baumgartner’s jump has potentially eclipsed both Andreyev’s records, as well as his own vertical speed record of 365 mph, which he achieved on the first Stratos jump in March. Unfortunately, the Stratos capsule sustained damage on landing, potentially delaying the third and final Stratos jump, planned for 120,000 feet to break Joe Kittinger’s historic mark of 102,800 feet, set in 1960.


After a successful test jump from over 97K ft.

from left; Joe Kittinger, Felix Baumgartner, Art Thompson, Mike Todd


Felix Baumgartner Jumps from 97,063 feet at 563mph

Felix Baumgartner successfully jumped from 18 miles / 29 kilometres above the Earth 97,063 feet / 29,584 meters, freefalling as fast as a commercial airliner – 536 miles or 864 kilometres per hour (latest figures sanctioned by USPA and NAA). This jump was a significant achievement in ballooning history but it also proved that safety and recovery systems are functional in preparation for the 120,000 feet attempt.

In March of this year, Felix completed the first manned jump, a culmination of testing equipment, the team, and the procedures together under real flight conditions. Felix is only the third person to have ever jumped from 71,615 ft. Although, this won’t be his highest freefall attempt, it’s high enough to verify the functionality of the pressurized space suit and the capsule’s abilities.

This stems from five years of testing and intensive work. The effort takes more than 100 expert personnel who have been building and creating one-of-a-kind technology, and sometimes coming together from across the world.

Data from the International Air Sports Federation (FAI) shows how the 1st manned test measured up.


  • Altitude reached: 71,615.2 ft / 21,828.3 meters
  • Parachute opened at: 8,210.6 ft / 2,502.6 meters
  • Freefall time: 3 minutes and 40 seconds
  • The fastest ascent rate of the capsule: 1,200 feet per minute (estimate)
  • Speed reached in freefall: 364.69 mph / 586.92 km per hour



Felix Baumgartner’s is airborne

We are airborne! Felix is on his way up inside a pressurized space capsule to 90,000 ft under the lift of a helium-filled balloon. His ascent rate will be approximately 1,000 ft per minute. Have questions about the mission? Send to


July 24, 2012

Weather Conditions July 24, 2012

If it’s not a thunderstorm, it’s wind. This morning the team attempted to launch its high altitude balloon with Felix but the wind was just too strong. As with any balloon flight, the weather conditions must be ideal; and in this case that means winds less than 5 mph. The 5.3 million cubic foot balloon that will be used for the 2nd manned flight stands 342 ft tall. Although strong, the balloon can be damaged by shearing winds. For safety’s sake, the team could not take any chances. Another attempt will be made when conditions look promising.


July 23, 2012

Don Day explains the forecast

The storm wins every time. Today’s test jump attempt to 90,000’ was scratched as thunderstorms started overtaking Roswell, NM. The team planned to launch Felix for its second manned test flight this morning, but weather conditions were not cooperating for a high altitude balloon launch. Instability in the atmosphere, clouds, and lightning all contributed. Learn more about the elements that must be considered for launch.  The top picture shows the team carefully holding the specialized balloon as the decision was made to stop action due to thunderstorms.


July 22, 2012

Day Two @ Roswell, NM

Day 2 on the road with FlightLine Films. What does it take to get two enormous optical tracking systems and cameras to the Red Bull Stratos mission in Roswell, NM? Three trucks, one tough Humvee, and 2 full days of driving.


July 21, 2012

Day One @ Roswell, NM

Destination: Roswell, NM. Getting there might be half the challenge. Join me on the road with FlightLine Films for a nearly 800 mile trip. You won’t believe what it takes to get the caravan of crew, huge optical tracking equipment and cameras to the Red Bull Stratos mission…and we’re just getting started.


July 11, 2012

Test Jump 1 of 3 – Analysis

Go deeper into the equations,’s Rhett Allain crunches the numbers from our biggest test jump yet….at 71,615 feet (21,828 meters).



June 8, 2012

Jay Leno – The Tonight Show w/Felix Baumgartner & Joe Kittinger Preview (6/8/12)


May 8, 2012

Space Technology Expo May 8-10

Sage Cheshire, David Clark Co. And Flightline Films at the Space Technology Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center. May 8,9, and 10.



May 7, 2012

Art Thompson, Dr. Forest Bird and Joe Kittinger review Dr. Bird’s multiple aircraft.


May 6, 2012

Red Bull Stratos Medical Team Meeting

Art Thompson,  Joe Kittinger and the Sage Cheshire/Red Bull Stratos Medical Team meet with Dr. Forest Bird and Shawn Goughnour on medical protocol for embolism.


March 23, 2012

45-foot paper airplane glides over Arizona desert

By Deborah Netburn March 23, 2012, 11:59 a.m.

Cheers to the Pima Air & Space Museum for flying what might be the largest paper airplane ever constructed over the Arizona desert earlier this week.

The plane, dubbed Arturo’s Desert Eagle, was 45 feet long with a 24-foot wingspan and weighed in at a whopping 800 pounds.

It was built as part of the museum’s Giant Paper Airplane Project, designed to get kids psyched about aviation and engineering.

After a few false starts, the plane was towed into the sky above the Sonoran desert on Wednesday afternoon by a Sikorsky S58T helicopter.

The design team was hoping to get the monster paper airplane up to 4,000 or 5,000 feet before letting it loose, but due to wind conditions, the helicopter pilot decided to set it free at 2,703 feet.

It was still able to glide at speeds of close to 100 mph for 7 to 10 seconds before stress on the tail caused it to hurdle to the ground.

“It didn’t fare too well as an end game,” Tim Vimmerstedt, a spokesperson for the Pima Air & Space Museum told The Times.  “It really is a crumbled mess.”

The plane was constructed of layers of falcon board, which Vimmerstedt described as a type of corrugated cardboard, similar to a pizza box.

The plane was designed and built in Lancaster by Art Thompson, who helped design the B-2 stealth bomber, but the design was based on a paper airplane folded by 12-year-old Tucson resident Arturo Valdenegro—winner of a paper airplane fly-off sponsored by the Pima Air & Space Museum in January.

In a video interview with the museum on the day of the launch, Valdenegro said before the Great Paper Airplane Project he thought that he might puruse a career in engineering, but after meeting Thompson and seeing his plane realized in giant size, he now knows he’s going to be an engineer when he grows up.

For the musuem, that’s the real mission accomplished.

Read Article on Los Angeles Times



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