Red Bull Stratos and Ultra-HALO Tactics (Updated)

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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