Monthly archives for July, 2010
Only a few feet above ground in a capsule dangling from a crane on Sage Cheshire Aerospace test grounds in California, Baumgartner practiced exiting and stepping off his hot-air balloon. Even a slight stumble during this step could cause dangerous alterations in his in-flight position only moments later, as well as reduce his chances of actually breaking the sound barrier. Read Full Article
As Mission Moves Forward, Felix Baumgartner Discusses What’s Working, What Concerns Remain
Santa Monica, Calif. – June 29, 2010 – As Red Bull Stratos grows increasingly near to realization, the mission’s aeronautics experts today announce encouraging results from the latest high-altitude test jumps and step-off procedure tests. Mission pilot Felix Baumgartner himself acknowledges feelings of both satisfaction and apprehension while the team prepares to move into a new phase of testing.
Choreographing the step-off, nailing the landing
During the last week in May 2010, the Red Bull Stratos team conducted three important tests:
· Step-off from the actual capsule
· Bungee jumps in the pressurized space suit to practice step-off technique
· High-altitude skydives in a fully pressurized space suit for the first time
Capsule step-off: At Sage Cheshire Aerospace in Lancaster, California, the capsule dangled from a 40,000-ton crane to simulate its suspension from the balloon flight train, with Baumgartner practicing his movements inside, exiting and stepping off. The purpose was not to simulate freefall – the capsule was only a few feet off the ground – but rather to determine how the vessel reacts to Baumgartner’s motion, and whether those reactions could compromise his descent. Even a relatively gentle tumble created by imprecise step-off could not only hinder Baumgartner’s ability to achieve the streamlined position that may be necessary to break the sound barrier; but it could suddenly devolve into a dangerously rapid “flat spin” once he encounters a level of increased air density. “We had no idea what’s going to happen to the capsule as he slides the seat forward, climbs out and steps off,” says Luke Aikins, the Red Bull Stratos Aerial Strategist and Skydiving Consultant. “We were worried that if the capsule moved, he wasn’t going to get a good exit, but it’s pretty stationary. So we were able to eliminate those issues.”
Step-off technique bungee jumps: Next, the scene turned surreal as a group of pre-eminent aerospace experts and test pilots – including Joe Kittinger, who holds the records Baumgartner will try to break – gathered in a deserted Lancaster fairground to witness something they’d never seen during all their combined years of experience: a bungee jump in a pressurized space suit and helmet. “You wouldn’t normally think of a bungee jump in terms of prepping for a high-altitude jump, but it gives Felix the sensation of what it’s like to step off and try to control his forward rotation,” comments Art Thompson, the mission’s Technical Project Director. After multiple jumps from a crane basket suspended 200 feet above the ground, Baumgartner’s exit technique had evolved into something that one team member described as “perfect.” “We still have an unknown, which is what happens to my body when I break the speed of sound; but at least we’re going to know that I’m able to handle the step-off,” Baumgartner states.
High altitude skydives: The finale to the week of testing was a series of skydives over the desert in Perris, California, reaching approximately 26,000 feet. This test, conducted on May 27, 2010, was a follow-up to a similar day of flights in early spring, when Baumgartner had been frustrated by the awkwardness of his equipment, especially by the way his chest pack – a vital technology hub for the descent – jammed his helmet and inhibited movement on descent and, additionally, blocked his vision while landing. Objectives were to get a clean step-off from the rear-exit airplane; assess controllability and various body positions in the fully pressurized suit; experience suit deflation upon descent; and test a new chest pack system that allows one side to move out of Baumgartner