CE#653: The tech behind Felix Baumgartner’s stratospheric skydive (ExtremeTech)


Sixty five years ago today, Captain Charles Yeager became the first man to travel faster than the speed of sound in his X-1 aircraft. Daredevil Felix Baumgartner just became the first man to accomplish the same feat without a plane — or indeed any assistance at all. In an almost unimaginable stunt, the 43-year old Austrian has jumped from a specially constructed balloon at over 128,000 feet (39km) above the earth, breaking the world record for high-altitude skydives and speeds in free fall. As you would expect, Baumgartner is no stranger to extreme sports. He is an accomplished BASE jumper and, using a carbon wing, was the first to free fall across the English Channel. On this dive he broke not only the previous altitude record of 102,000 feet for a skydive, but likely the speed of sound and the record for fastest free fall during his descent.

The Red Bull Stratos team backing Baumgartner describes their feat as a “mission to the edge of space.” Years in the planning, the team has gone through many iterations of equipment and practice jumps before finally being ready to make the record-setting attempt from Roswell, New Mexico. Capsule damage during a training jump and poor wind conditions took turns delaying the effort, but today, Sunday, October 14th, 2012, Baumgartner was finally able to launch.

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