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Baumgartner Freefall Faster Than First Thought

 

Felix Baumgartner
Felix Baumgartner jumped from 127,852.4 feet above the earth's surface last October. (photo courtesy of Red Bull Stratos)

February 7, 2013 - After three months of thorough examination, the Red Bull Stratos team announced this week the revised results of Felix Baumgartner's record-setting supersonic freefall performed on October 14, 2012 - and it was even more impressive than originally reported.

About 50 seconds into his freefall, Baumgartner reached a maximum vertical speed of 843.6 mph (Mach 1.25), about 10 mph faster than the first estimate of 833.9 mph (Mach 1.24). The actual jump altitude was slightly less than originally reported - 128,100 feet - to 127,852.4 feet.

The figures were verified by a private peer review by NASA astronauts, U.S. Air Force officers, and representatives from commercial aerospace companies like Virgin Galactic, Northrop Grumman, SpaceX, XCOR, and Sierra Nevada Corporation conducted at the California Science Center on January 23.

The final report also states that Baumgartner experienced "25.2 seconds of absolute weightlessness" during the initial stage of his freefall, followed by a period of turning and spinning resulting in a flat spin lasting 13 seconds. Baumgartner's skydiving skills allowed him to stabilize his trajectory.

"It feels like you are floating into space, and then you pick up speed very fast - but you don't feel the air because the air density is so low," Baumgartner said. "For almost 35 seconds I couldn't sense the air around me because basically there was none. That kind of helpless feeling is annoying as a professional skydiver. And then when you finally enter a thicker air layer you have to keep yourself completely symmetrical, because otherwise you start spinning, which is what happened to me."

These final figures were provided to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, which verifies all world aviation records. FAI created a new Maximum Vertical Speed category, according to Brian Utley, official observer for the contest and records board of the U.S. National Aeronautic Association.

Utley added that Baumgartner's jump altitude was a "quantum" 24 percent higher than Joe Kittinger's 1960 jump from 102,800 feet. Utley stressed that Baumgartner's launch balloon reached 128,177.5 feet, the highest manned ascent known, before descending slightly at the time of his jump.

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