UPDATE: After flying to an altitude of 39,045 meters (128,100 feet) in a helium-filled ballon, Felix Baumgartner completed a record breaking jump from the edge of space, exactly 65 years after Chuck Yeager first broke the sound.
Felix reached a maximum of speed of 1,342.8 km/h (833mph) through the near vacuum of the stratosphere before being slowed by the atmosphere later during his 4:20 minute long freefall. The 43-year-old Austrian skydiving expert also broke two other world records (highest freefall, highest manned balloon flight), leaving the one for the longest freefall to project mentor Col. Joe Kittinger.
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.
All camera systems being used for the Red Bull Stratos mission have been personally designed and developed by the mission's director of high-altitude photography, Jay Nemeth of FlightLine Films. One of only a handful of "zero-G" qualified cameramen, Jay Nemeth has logged zero-gravity flights for various projects, including a shoot with Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin. In addition to being comfortable in zero-G and high-G environments, he is familiar with the specific camera systems that work well in these conditions.
FlightLine Films offers long-range optical tracking, zero-gravity qualified crews and HD cameras for use in the cold vacuum of space, as well as housings that allow traditional motion picture cameras to operate in that hostile environment. Camera and communications systems are essential to establish visual contact with Felix Baumgartner, to document the mission's progress in real time and for future review, and to broadcast the images to a global audience.
• Nine high-def cameras
• Three 4K digital cinematography cameras (RED)
• Three digital still cameras (Canon 5D Mark II)
• Pressurized electronics "keg" containing more than 125 electronic components and approximately two miles of wiring
» PRESSURE SUIT
• Three small high-def video cameras: one on each thigh and one on Felix's chest pack.
Cameras have trouble working in extreme cold and extreme heat, as well as in a near vacuum. All cameras have been tested in a special chamber that simulates the conditions of high altitude and space. Where necessary, cameras have been placed in custom pressurized housings designed and built by FlightLine Films and Micar Fabrication & Design Company. When filled with nitrogen gas, the housings simulate the environment on Earth. Four of the capsule cameras are space-rated units attached to the exterior base, eight are in the pressurized housings also on the exterior, and three are interior. All will be remotely controlled from the Mission Control Center. The capsule's nine advanced HD cameras each individually record to solid-state RAM (random-access memory) recorders, and each is also routed to one of three digital video transmitters for live viewing on Earth. Special filters are used on some of the Red Bull Stratos cameras because the brightness of the sun is more intense in the upper stratosphere.
It is anticipated that some of the cameras inside the Red Bull Stratos capsule will be covered in ice upon touchdown. The suit cameras must function in near-space conditions for up to 20 minutes, as well as at supersonic speed and in any orientation (upside-down, sideways, etc.) The Red Bull Stratos capsule and Felix Baumgartner's pressure suit have more HD cameras than most 45-foot television production trucks.
A typical satellite uplink truck has one or two channels of microwave video. The Red Bull Stratos capsule has three.
To achieve a live broadcast from 23 miles above the Earth, an optical ground tracking camera system was developed with features ranging from infrared to high-definition cameras. This system is called the "Joint Long-range Aerospace Imaging and Relay": JLAIR. Two JLAIR units are used for the Red Bull Stratos project.
The JLAIR's primary imaging equipment includes:
• High-def P2 camera (up to 60 frames per second)
• 4K camera (up to 120 frames per second in 2K mode)
• Shortwave infrared camera
• Digital still camera
The JLAIR Optical Tracking System offers capabilities not previously available to the private space industry or production companies: It carries a variety of high-power zoom lenses and large telescopes attached to an 8,000-pound motorized pedestal, previously used to track Space Shuttle launches. The control room allows technicians to select the best images available and transmit them in real time to Mission Control and/or broadcast viewers. JLAIR 1 is the first fully integrated tracking system on one vehicle chassis that includes an optics payload of over 1,000 pounds, an air-conditioned control room, an on-board generator for the tracker and sub-systems, and encoding and satellite transmission of HD video. JLAIR 2 shares the same features but employs a traditional trailer-mounted pedestal with separate control truck for mission flexibility.
In the air during much of Felix Baumgartner's mission will be a tracking helicopter equipped with a Cineflex camera that is stabilized with a gyro system for precision optics to a sub-pixel level.
The single-engine helicopter has been modified with a custom mission package that includes:
• One Cineflex v14 HD System
• Two interior HD cameras
• Three HD recorders
• A 2GHZ microwave transmitter
• A 16-port HD switcher
• Programmable FM communications radios
The helicopter's system allows tracking of both Felix and the capsule, with display of the resulting image on a moving map that shows the helicopter's own relative position. That moving map image can be displayed to Mission Control to increase situational awareness, and it enables this tracking helicopter to guide the recovery helicopter to Felix's landing site. For Felix's second stratospheric test jump, the helicopter was assigned to capture HD aerial footage of Felix under his parachute and during landing to transmit live via microwave to Mission Control; as well as to track the capsule and capture the first aerial shots of the vessel descending under its cargo parachute, enabling assessment of how the capsule sustains landing in potentially rough terrain. With additional seating capacity, the helicopter typically also carries a still photographer to capture even more images for the mission.
All video signals on the ground are distributed and routed with Riedel's MediorNet technology. MediorNet is a fiber-based real-time network for HD video, audio, communications and data signals that also provides integrated processing, for extraordinarily efficient installation and maintenance. The Red Bull Stratos mission uses 24 MediorNet nodes that are installed in a redundant ring topology to provide maximum reliability. In case a connection between two nodes gets lost, the signals will still be distributed due to the redundant topology.
The connection to the flightline where the balloon and capsule are launched is also realized with the MediorNet system - in this case with two MediorNet Compact frames that are connected to the main system. All links in the MediorNet system are realized with Riedel PURE, an extremely robust, mobile fiber cable that is equipped with rugged Neutrik OpticalCON Quad connectors.
MediorNet transports all video signals of the mission, as well as all signals from the OB truck and all signals from the JLAIR tracking truck. It also distributes the broadcast audio between Mission Control and recording. Furthermore, the data of the telemetry used for other broadcast applications is transported via MediorNet.
In addition to the video transport, MediorNet also serves as a network backbone for the on-site Internet connection, providing Ethernet connectivity in all areas of the compound.