Red Bull’s Baumgartner!

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A big 4c congratulations to Felix Baumgartner for breaking the sound barrier yesterday, as he plummeted to earth from 125,000 feet, 23 miles up (European translation = 38 kilometres).

Felix Baumgartner is a 43 year old Austrian skydiver that can easily be described as being part of the elite of adrenalin junkies. Apart from this most recent record breaking stunts, he holds a number of other world records including the highest BASE jump from a building, lowest BASE jump, first person to skydive across the English Channel and the first person to skydive onto and then BASE jump off of the ‘Turning Torso’ building in Sweden. This list of accolades made him the perfect, and most qualified, man for the job for the Red Bull jump.

Felix Baumgartner space gondola!

Felix BaumgartnerAlthough it may have been the weight of Baumgartner’s gargantuan balls that helped him reach these unimaginable speeds, it was the hard work and dedication of his support team that provided him with the gear and training required to survive the ordeal. This team is made up of world leading experts in medicine, science and engineering in addition to a NASA crew surgeon, famous aviators and the man whose record Felix is trying to beat.

Baumgartner’s team helped him create an arsenal of interesting and innovative gear that has been specifically designed and fabricated for this jump… although there’s a good chance that many of these developments will worm their way into other applications. It was this equipment that clutched our interest here at 4c:

This information was taken from the Red Bull site, visit here for more details.

Full-Pressure Suit

Felix Baumgartner’s full-pressure suit and helmet was his personal life support system. Once Felix jumped this system was his only protection until he reached the safety of the lower atmosphere. It was specifically designed to withstand the speeds that he was expected to reach in addition to protecting him from temperatures ranging from 100°F to -90°F, prevent the onset of the Bends, and also allowed the suit to rapidly re-pressurise as it fell through the different layers of the atmosphere. The suit was also custom made to allow him to retain the mobility that skydivers need which most pressure suits do not cater for.

Pressure Helmet and Visor

Felix’s Helmet was designed to be incredibly strong yet lightweight to improve mobility and to provide oxygen from both liquid oxygen tanks on the ascent and pressurised gaseous oxygen tanks for the free fall. The helmet was also kitted out with a variable sunshade, heating circuits to avoid fogging and icing (which unfortunately failed ), a microphone and headset for communicating with the ground team and a drinking port so that he can stay hydrated during the 3 hour ascent.

Parachute

No previous personal parachute system has ever been used for a supersonic free fall from the edge of space. Years of development and testing have resulted in innovations including revolutionary drogue technology to preventing spinning and help Felix rapidly decelerate . If Felix experiences too much G force, sensors will automatically deploy these drogues however this will severely hamper his ability to reach the sound barrier. Felix’s rig including, main and reserve parachutes plus oxygen tanks weighed 36 kilograms, 4 times that of a regular sky diver.

Capsule

The 6ft capsule that Felix will sit in has been specifically designed to reduce the onset of decompression sickness and provide him with a platform to sit on and breathe easy before he inflated his pressure suit. This high tech gondola allowed him to control his ascent, monitor his progress and send pictures and video back down to mission control. To aid in its safe return to earth the capsule used parachutes and crush pads – sacrificial structure made of honeycombed fibreglass and designed to squash on impact to absorb forces of up to 8G’s. During development, the crush pad engineers performed more than 150 test drops to perfect the design.

4c's Red Bull Bottle

As Red Bull is a previous client of ours we like to keep a close eye on their activities and enjoy seeing them supporting yet another world record breaker! Our passion for innovative contraptions have allowed us to become big fans of some of Red Bull’s other events – X fighters, Air Race and the reliably entertaining Flugtag.

Once again, well done Felix!!

Below is the jump recreated in Lego

In the words of Han Solo – “She’ll make point five past lightspeed.”

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