The Red Bull Stratos team, which is working toward breaking the longstanding highest-ever parachute jump record, has delayed its final record attempt because the capsule, which carries skydiver Felix Baumgartner aloft beneath a helium balloon, was damaged in a test jump last month. Baumgartner landed safely after jumping from 97,145 feet above the New Mexico desert -- the second-highest jump, ever -- and the capsule was released from the balloon and parachuted back to the surface.
However, the capsule landed on rocks and was thrown onto its side, according to the Stratos team blog, damaging its outer shell, framework, and other key components. The flight that will attempt to set a new record is now expected to take place during the first two weeks of October.
Art Thompson, technical project director, said over the weekend that the capsule had performed perfectly during the August test flight. However, the rough landing cracked some of the interior panels, and the instrument panel had to be rebuilt. All the interior systems have been checked and verified, he said, and will undergo a final test in an altitude chamber later this month.
The weather in New Mexico is expected to be good for the flight attempt in October. "Early fall in New Mexico is one of the best times of year to launch stratospheric balloons," according to Don Day, the project meteorologist. Baumgartner aims to ascend to above 102,800 feet before jumping, to break Joe Kittinger's record, set in 1960. Kittinger was an Air Force test pilot working with the space program. He's an advisor on the Stratos project, which began in 2005.
Gravity always wins!