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[b]New Capsule for Baumgartner with Fall Launch Date[/b]
When Felix Baumgartner successfully completed his second test jump from 97,145.7 feet (29,610 meters) landing safely in the New Mexico desert, the team was in a celebratory mood following an intensive week of weather delays. The freefall was higher than planned, making it the second highest jump in history eclipsed only by Joe Kittinger's world record set in 1960.
The 43-year-old Austrian plunged to earth at speeds up to 536.8 miles per hour (864 kilometers per hour) during a 3 minute 48 second freefall. The ascent, freefall and landing went perfectly according to plan. Technicalities from Baumgartner's first test flight were resolved, such as bitterly cold temperatures permeating his protective gloves, affecting dexterity. Baumgartner said on landing: "The more practice you have, the more confidence you have. We now have a good feeling of what to expect and are ready to go."
However, several hours later the Recovery Team reached the capsule and discovered it had sustained damage on landing. After Baumgartner jumped from the capsule, it was detached from the balloon shortly before it would have drifted into U.S. military airspace southwest of Roswell. However, after descending under parachute, it landed on a rocky, uneven surface and was thrown onto its side.
The capsule suffered damage to its outer shell, framework and other key components upon impact. It was taken to Sage Cheshire Aerospace in Lancaster, CA, where it underwent ten days of intensive testing. Red Bull Stratos Technical Project Director Art Thompson confirmed that the inner pressure sphere — which maintains an artificial atmosphere for the pilot — and key electronic support systems were intact. However certain components on the life support systems are being replaced as a precautionary safety measure. The outer shell will be exchanged using materials from a reserve capsule.
The reassembled capsule will undergo a final test at an altitude chamber at Brooks-City Base in San Antonio, TX, which recreates a stratospheric environment here on Earth. Once this test is completed successfully on or around September 24th the craft will be certified safe to fly, with the final mission set for the first two weeks of October. During this period weather conditions remain favorable with calm winds and clear skies essential for the launch of the delicate 55-story high balloon. Don Day, mission meteorologist, confirmed: "Early fall in New Mexico is one of the best times of year to launch stratospheric balloons."
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