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Red Bull Stratos and Ultra-HALO Tactics (Updated)

by Ward Carroll on October 14, 2012

Felix landed safely at 1416 eastern time.  It appears that he broke the altitude record, missed the freefall record by just under 30 seconds, and reached supersonic airspeeds.

At this writing Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic space jump mission is underway.  (Turn your TVs to Discovery or follow online at the official Red Bull Stratos site.)

Baumgartner plans on exiting the capsule he ascended in at 120,000 feet and freefalling at supersonic speeds before opening his chute and safely landing on the ground.  Here’s how the Red Bull Stratos site describes the mission:

Red Bull Stratos, a mission to the edge of space, will attempt to transcend human limits that have existed for 50 years. Supported by a team of experts Felix Baumgartner plans to ascend to 120,000 feet in a stratospheric balloon and make a freefall jump rushing toward earth at supersonic speeds before parachuting to the ground. His attempt to dare atmospheric limits holds the potential to provide valuable medical and scientific research data for future pioneers.

The Red Bull Stratos team brings together the world’s leading minds in aerospace medicine, engineering, pressure suit development, capsule creation and balloon fabrication. It includes retired United States Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger, who holds three of the records Felix will strive to break.

Joe’s record jump from 102,800 ft in 1960 was during a time when no one knew if a human could survive a jump from the edge of space. Joe was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and had already taken a balloon to 97,000 feet in Project ManHigh and survived a drogue mishap during a jump from 76,400 feet in Excelsior I. The Excelsior III mission was his 33rd parachute jump.

Although researching extremes was part of the program’s goals, setting records wasn’t the mission’s purpose. Joe ascended in helium balloon launched from the back of a truck. He wore a pressurized suit on the way up in an open, unpressurized gondola. Scientific data captured from Joe’s jump was shared with U.S. research personnel for development of the space program. Today Felix and his specialized team hope to take what was learned from Joe’s jumps more than 50 years ago and press forward to test the edge of the human envelope.

(For those watching as it happens, Kittinger is the guy talking to Baumgartner from mission control.)

The Stratos mission brings a number of military applications to mind, most notably HALO missions from the edge of space.  Imagine today’s HALO ops — where special operators jump at, say, 30,000 feet — increased to 120,000 feet.  And imagine a SEAL team hurting toward an objective at supersonic speeds.  The longer glide path would let them jump over adjacent continents and zorch into hostile areas with vitually zero chance for detection from even the most sophisticated air defense systems.

In the meantime:  Godspeed and good luck, Felix.


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{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

JackBlack October 14, 2012 at 3:14 pm

CONGRATULATIONS Felix, you make humanity proud!


Ross October 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Fuck you


blight_ October 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm

It should go to the engineers, sponsored by Red Bull who made it happen.


blight_ October 14, 2012 at 3:43 pm

It was a comparatively quick four minute drop.

I was hoping he would've brought a camera, perhaps attached to his suit. Oh well, it's still pretty crazy…


JackBlack October 14, 2012 at 4:03 pm

He had 2 cameras on his suit, not even the press conference has even started and you shit about the quick drop. STFU, and respect the man.


blight_ October 14, 2012 at 5:35 pm

I'm not even sure why you think the fact that the drop was four minutes is grounds for complaining.

Saving respect for Kittinger, who participated in the project and apparently may still possess the free-fall record. The other record no longer his is highest altitude for a jump, but the objective was to break the sound barrier on the way down.


Davidz October 14, 2012 at 4:09 pm

"vitually zero chance for detection from even the most sophisticated air defense systems"
I don't think so, unless stealth technology can be applied to space suits.


tmb2 October 14, 2012 at 4:25 pm

What's the smallest object that can be picked up on radar? What's the smallest object that an enemy radar station could pick up and care enough to investigate and potentially fire on?

I don't know these answers, but they seem to be the questions to ask.


blight_ October 14, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Someone is going to crow about IRST, especially consider they had him on IR cameras all the way down.


tmb2 October 14, 2012 at 9:51 pm

True, but they were also looking for him and knew exactly where to start.


blight_ October 15, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Considering that it was a few months ago that Defensetech reported on Duke's progress in wide-field surveillance systems, it's possible one could use IRST in such a way to scan large swathes of sky. Eventually.

zap October 14, 2012 at 5:43 pm

well you can see the helmet on radar from 200 miles away so you would need some kind of 007 style stealth wing suit , or you might as well just do it the same old way and keep the advantage of looking like a airliner on a normal flight path .


NathanS October 14, 2012 at 9:45 pm

I know radars are sensitive enough to pick up a flock of birds, but not a bird individually. It's difficult to detect anything much smaller (provided the object is non-metallic) as there's a lot of background noise and false positives would be common.


Tiger October 15, 2012 at 9:17 pm

If anything from that high were seen, most would consider a blip to be space junk falling back to Earth. Too high & small for a plane would be the natural conclusion.


Davidz October 16, 2012 at 8:10 am

Space junk would probably travel considerably faster, and birds don't fly so high.

Ben October 14, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Halo ODST's anybody?


jamFRIDGE October 15, 2012 at 8:32 am

They drop in inside Of a pod, not jumping from one. Good comparison though, I didn’t think of that


blight_ October 15, 2012 at 10:56 am

For the old folks, anyone remember the Halo 2 teaser?


Ben October 15, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Sure do. A damn shame it was changed so drastically for the release.


TrustButVerify October 16, 2012 at 10:06 am

Hell, I've been grumbling about Halo ever since it was kidnapped by the XBox.

Mark Hyde October 16, 2012 at 2:16 pm

never getting laid anyone?


Roy Smith October 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Did anybody else think that the guy going over the checklist with him bore an uncanny resemblance to Harry Carey? All he needed to say next was “Holy Cow!”


EW3 October 14, 2012 at 6:44 pm

That guy was Retired Air Force Colonel Joseph Kittinger who held the record till this jump. Thought it was great that he as there at the age pf 84 actively supporting this effort. First class all around.


sam October 15, 2012 at 7:54 am

I actually found his voice very charming and calming in the circumstances. I felt safe in my armchair at home with his voice soothing my nerves.


UAVGeek October 16, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Well yeah, he's possibly the only other human being on the planet who has done this, so yeah he would be calm.


BlackOwl18E October 14, 2012 at 6:55 pm

That guy can claim badass status for life.


Nicky October 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Feilix holds the title as one Badass dude for LIFE


Tiger October 15, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Somebody Faster than Usain Bolt?


blight_ October 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Joe and Felix will have to share the stage of Epic Awesome.

Felix is retiring, but Joe went on to fly over Vietnam and stayed at the Hanoi Hilton.


Dean October 14, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Thrilling to watch.

SEALS are not going to start jumping from 120,000 feet. This took perfect balloon launch conditions and winds have to be perfect. Not a military option. Also there is nothing new about jumping from higher than 30,000 feet, really just limited again by the aircraft limits. I doubt this demonstration alters HALO jump ceiling. What would change the game is if this guy bails out from a Virgin Galactic in LEO.


Jumper October 17, 2012 at 12:04 am

Also, nobody mentioned the incredible skill and experience level needed to keep stable during the jump and not tumbling into a spin with resulting black out/death.


Chris October 15, 2012 at 12:46 am

just remember he went from 120,000 ft to the ground in 4 minutes even the best radar defense systems that would detect the jumper would not have nearly enough time to investigate what the hell was going on much less direct someone to see what it was. I think the true question for possible military application is just how much distance can be covered horizontally from jump point to landing, and also how accurate a jumper could be.


dee October 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Just add wings and he can "fly" – well really glide.


blight_ October 15, 2012 at 2:47 pm

The glide ratio of a wingsuit is 2.5, so your forward distance would be a bit more than double 128,000 feet.

Edit: This assumes you don't use a parachute, and simply hit the ground at maximum speed. With the chute, your mileage may vary, and considering the super-thin atmosphere at the initial height of the jump, the glide ratio could be higher.

A HAHO jump might be interesting too…


SJE October 15, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Wing suit flights typically end with a parachute


blight_ October 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm

I imagine hitting the ground at high speed would defeat the purpose of the wingsuit.

Maybe terrorists will use them as a way to bypass aerial defenses…they are slower than Stingers though.


TrustButVerify October 16, 2012 at 10:08 am

Hard to imagine a parachutist having enough of an IR signature for a Stinger to lock on to, but what the hell do I know.

spriddler October 22, 2012 at 1:41 pm

That is the glide ratio in a thick atmosphere. At 128,000ft atmosperic effects on free fall are negligible. You are going to spend the first 30 seconds or so going pretty much straight down no matter what you wear.


blight_ October 22, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Unless of course, something imparts velocity to you during the drop.

Spaceplane, anyone?

(Not too much of course, lest it cook the flyer)


Thomas L. Nielsen October 15, 2012 at 2:02 am

There are several videos out there of the actual jump, and every time I see on of them, right at the point where Baumgartner is about ot step off the capsule into (very) thin air, I can't help but see this thought bubble coming from his helmet with the words "I should've gone to the bathroom before coming up here…." :-)

Joking aside, a big "well done sir", and excellent proof that The Right Stuff is still alive and kicking.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen

PS: Does anyone know if he shouted "GERONIMO"?


jamFRIDGE October 15, 2012 at 8:36 am

Good question, but with a last name like “Baumgartner” he could’ve just shouted “Me!”

All joking aside it was really an awesome thing to watch. Didn’t he actually jump from closer to 130,000 feet?


S Bailey October 15, 2012 at 8:29 am

He was at +128,000 when he jumped and hit 833.9 mph, or mach 1.24


This guy has some big ones !


charlie G October 15, 2012 at 12:54 pm

big ones? seriously the Q is how could his shoot hold his weight and the weight of his iron balls as well without failing.


Bob October 15, 2012 at 3:50 pm

And he's not even American …


Shakes October 15, 2012 at 3:53 pm

There's a sound financial motive for doing this jump as well: he well never have to buy himself a drink again.


Max October 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm

I don't know why, but it seems to me that this could offer another way to save the lives of astronauts in orbit who have no other way to come home. But perhaps being in orbit would mean they were going way to fast to risk this kind of jump. Necessity is the mother of invention, though; there may be a way to do it.


DangerClose October 15, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Yeah, they'd just need to figure out the other 220 miles.


Thomas L. Nielsen October 16, 2012 at 1:55 am

…and the 8 kps speed when you hit atmo.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen


Mastro October 16, 2012 at 9:29 am

At what altitude do you have to worry about burning up in reentry versus just being really high up? Can you parachute (freefall) from 200,000- 300,000 feet up if you have enough oxygen?


Thomas L. Nielsen October 16, 2012 at 9:59 am

Sure you can :-)

The re-entry heating is not due to altitude, per se, but speed. Orbital speed at LEO is around 8.000 m/s, and hitting the upper atmosphere at that speed creates friction. A lot of friction.

If, as a thought experiment, we imagine you stationary with regards to Earth (that is, not orbiting, just "hanging there") at 300 0000 feet and then letting go of whatever you were hanging from, you'd fall towards Earth, accelerating until air resistance balanced the force of gravity. As the atmosphere got denser, and air resistance increased, you'd slow down. Friction heating would be minimal.

Of course the problem would be to find something (relatively) stationary at 300 000 ft. to hang on to. Something like this, maybe: http://www.jpaerospace dot com/dssoverview.html

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen

tiger October 15, 2012 at 9:13 pm

Anybody notice he did this 65 years to the day Chuck Yeager took the X-1 into Mach 1?
October 14, 1947.


Glarg October 24, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I farted. In space.


Mastro October 16, 2012 at 9:27 am

RSO Zwayer died of a broken neck- the pilot Bill Weaver lived- but he blacked out.

Obviously Weaver went supersonic when the SR71 broke up and he was ejected- but how can you compare it to a controlled test?


blight_ October 16, 2012 at 2:43 pm

This will be interesting in a couple of years, or decades; when we start jumping from the Karman line. It begs the question if a helium balloon could even do the job…


rodsfromgod November 17, 2012 at 8:38 pm

The original Halo for Mac would have been a very interesting game had Microsoft not picked it up.


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