After a major disappointment last Wednesday with a last minute aborted launch, the Stratos team redeems itself.
I reported last Wednesday on the historic Red Bull Stratos mission. This was the attempt to make the first ever skydive from 23 miles up (120,000 feet, 37 km).
I waited to post my article until the balloon was being inflated, confident that the mission would go forward. Alas, moments after I made my post the mission was aborted.
A critical requirement during the lift-off is winds of less than 3 mph (5 kph) at altitudes below 700 feet (200 m). This is because that is the height of the fully inflated balloon. Sadly, the winds picked up last Wednesday before they were ready for the launch.
It took a few days for the weather conditions to improve, but it finally happened. This morning at 9:30AM Mountain Daylight Time (MDT) the balloon finally took off.
The entire event was streamed live over the Internet in HD video. With close to 30 cameras on-board and on the ground, I felt like I was right up there in the capsule.
I have a correction from my earlier report. In that report I called Felix Baumgartner a daredevil and an adrenaline junkie. I am not sure anymore that he is either.
His mannerism and approach to the flight reminds me more of a NASA astronaut. He was not shouting at the top of his lungs “let’s light this candle!”. He was very methodical, checking and rechecking everything. Inside the capsule, he covered walls with fifteen different checklists.
The mission was almost picture perfect. The only significant glitch reported was a suspected malfunctioning visor heating element. With the frigid temperatures outside, frost forming on his faceplate was a very real problem. He did get some frost on his visor during the jump, but it melted when he reached the lower altitudes.
Felix jumped a couple of minutes after noon. He was in freefall for about for and a half minutes. He opened his parachute at about 5,000 feet (1500 m) above ground level. Then his float to the ground lasted about another five minutes.
I am still waiting to hear the official word if he broke the sound barrier during his descent. Traveling at a speed of over 700 mph (1125 kph), I suspect that he did.
Watching the entire event unfold was incredibly exciting. I know this has nothing to do with RC or UAVs or even airplanes. But it is still a part of aerospace history. My eyes were glued to my computer monitor during the entire flight!