Supersonic Skydive Attempt Aborted Due to Winds

The balloon that was to carry Felix Baumgartner high above Earth for a record skydive attempt shortly before it was deflated after the attempt was aborted Tuesday due to high winds. Click to enlarge this image. Screengrab/Red Bull
Screengrab/Red Bull

Strong winds made the launching of a balloon that would take Felix Baumgartner high above Earth too dangerous.

An Austrian daredevil's attempt to make the highest-ever skydive today, a freefall expected to reach supersonic speed, has been postponed because of gusty winds over the New Mexico launch site.

"The launch of the Red Bull Stratos capsule had to be stopped at 11:42 a.m. local time in Roswell, New Mexico just before Felix Baumgartner's giant 30 million cubic foot balloon had been fully inflated and made ready for take-off," said an official statement from Red Bull Stratos. "The launch was scheduled for 11:40 a.m., the balloon inflation had begun, and then gusty winds picked up and made a launch impossible."

WIDE ANGLE: Red Bull Stratos Skydive

Felix Baumgartner was planning to leap from a balloon nearly 23 miles above Roswell, N.M., to break the world record for skydive altitude. The record-breaking attempt will now be rescheduled. Frustratingly, the weather over the next few days looks iffy.

The 55-story balloon was scheduled to launch as early as 8 a.m. EDT, but the takeoff was delayed to 1:30 pm. Baumgartner entered the capsule and readied for launch before officials called it off. Baumgartner's balloon is enormous but fragile, requiring winds below 2 mph to launch safely.

Once Baumgartner does launch at a later date, if all goes according to plan, Baumgartner will plummet to Earth from an altitude of 120,000 feet (36,576 meters), becoming the first skydiver to break the sound barrier during his 5.5-minute freefall.

He should also notch a few other records in the process, including longest-duration freefall and highest manned balloon flight, say Stratos officials.

NEWS: Supersonic Flight: Pushing the Human Body's Limits

Over the course of about three hours, the balloon will lift Baumgartner — riding in a custom-built 2,900-pound (1,315 kilograms) capsule — up to the desired altitude.

Clad in a special pressurized suit, Baumgartner will then step out into the void, enduring unprecedented speeds as he hurtles through the stratosphere in freefall. He should deploy his parachute at an altitude of about 5,000 feet (1,500 m), then float safely to the desert floor.

The daredevil is aiming to break a skydiving mark that has stood since U.S. Air Force Capt. Joe Kittinger leapt from 102,800 feet (31,333 m) back in 1960. Kittinger serves as an adviser to Baumgartner's mission.

Baumgartner's supersonic leap was originally scheduled for Monday (Oct. 8), but it was postponed because of weather concerns.

Baumgartner has been working up to this leap in a stepwise fashion. He jumped from 71,581 feet (21,818 m) this past March and then dove from 97,146 feet (29,610 m) on July 25.

Red Bull Stratos officials have referred to the attempt as a jump from the edge of space, but this is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. Space is generally considered to begin at an altitude of 62 miles (100 kilometers), or about 327,000 feet (though the U.S. Air Force awards astronaut wings to pilots who fly above 50 miles, or 80.5 km).

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