Red Bull Stratos has returned to Roswell this week for its second manned test flight, as the team nears the culmination of a mission to the edge of space. In preparation for Felix Baumgartner’s historic jump from above 120,000 feet later this summer, a 5.3 million-cubic-feet balloon will lift the Austrian adventurer approximately 90,000 feet above ground before he steps out of a pressurized capsule and plunges back to Earth.
The test flight has been canceled twice this week due to unfavorable weather conditions, according to the Red Bull Stratos website. The team was forced to scrap the tests on Monday and Tuesday due to thunderstorms and strong winds, respectively.
On March 15, Baumgartner became just the third person to successfully jump from above 70,000 feet after the first manned test flight, joining Col. Joe Kittinger and Eugene Andreev as the only people to accomplish the feat.
Should Baumgartner complete the jump from above 120,000 feet, he will break three records that were set by Kittinger in 1960: highest freefall, longest freefall duration and the fastest speed a human has reached without protection of an aircraft.
Stratos technical director Art Thompson said that Baumgartner will likely break the speed of sound within the first 34 seconds of the freefall, traveling at speeds as high as 790 mph.
Thompson told the Daily Record in March that the final jump would probably take place about two weeks after the second manned test flight, which will take place as soon as weather permits.
Thompson, who came up with the program seven years ago, said Roswell is an ideal location for the mission. While Roswell was ultimately chosen for its favorable weather conditions, sparse population and top aviation facilities, Thompson said the team is excited about the history of the region.
“I know (Roswell) is really known for the whole UFO, alien thing, but we really admire the whole history of Goddard, and how significant Goddard was in the space program,” Thompson said. “And so for us, coming here and being a part of developing space technology in a town that’s known for Goddard’s past history, it’s very significant to us.
“(Wernher) von Braun, who is recognized as being the father of the modern space program, openly admitted that a lot of his ideas came from Goddard, who did a lot of his work right here in Roswell. So we love being in Roswell.”