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Daredevil set to take record-breaking leap over New Mexico desert

October 09, 2012|By W.J. Hennigan | This post has been updated. See below for details.

[Updated at 10:45 a.m.: Because of weather issues, the jump has been scrubbed for the day.]

The record-breaking jump in which daredevil Felix Baumgartner will attempt to become the first free-falling human to break the sound barrier is set to take place in the early morning hours in the skies above the New Mexico desert.

On Tuesday, Baumgartner will leap from a capsule dangling 120,000 feet, or 23 miles, above the Earth’s surface. The event, called Red Bull Stratos, will be webcast on the event website beginning at 5:30 a.m. PDT and in the video stream above.

It is an endeavor, five years in the making, to break a free-fall world record of 102,800 feet, or 19 miles, set by Air Force test pilot Joe Kittinger in 1960.

The jump by Baumgartner, 43, is designed to test the threshold of his equipment and find out what it shows about the limits and capabilities of the human body bailing out from aircraft at ultra-high altitudes.

Clearly, Red Bull has things in mind besides scientific breakthroughs. The mission involves two dozen cameras, including a helmet cam, to catch the action and to deliver live Web streams. The Austrian company hopes its promotional investment reaps returns on drink sales.

Red Bull has paid millions of dollars to Southern California aerospace companies to pull it off, but won't say exactly how much.

Wearing a newly designed suit and helmet, Baumgartner will be carried skyward inside a pressurized capsule suspended from the largest balloon ever used in a manned flight. Most of the equipment involved was built by Sage Cheshire Inc., a small aerospace firm in Lancaster.

The pressurized capsule, weighing 2,900 pounds -- a little more than a Volkswagen Beetle -- will be carried by a massive, helium-filled balloon to an altitude of 23 miles near Roswell, N.M. The trip will take up to three hours, and temperatures will fall as low as minus 70 degrees.

Once Baumgartner jumps from the capsule, he's expected to become supersonic within 35 seconds and ultimately reach about 700 mph.

After free falling an additional five minutes, he will deploy his parachute. About 15 minutes later, Baumgartner should reach the ground. In all, his descent is expected to last up to 20 minutes.


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