Skydiver aims for supersonic plunge on Oct. 8

By Marcia Dunn

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 25 2012 9:20 a.m. MDT

In this Wednesday, July 25, 2012 photo made available by Red Bull, Felix Baumgartner of Austria uses a parachute to land in the desert near Roswell, N.M. during the second manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos. Baumgartner made his second stratospheric leap Wednesday, this time from more than 18 miles (29 kilometers) above the Earth - nearly three times higher than cruising jetliners.

Red Bull, Jorg Mitter, Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The countdown is on for skydiver Felix Baumgartner.

In just two weeks, Baumgartner will attempt to go supersonic when he jumps from a record altitude of 23 miles over New Mexico. Project managers announced Tuesday the feat will take place Oct. 8.

The Austrian parachutist jumped from 13 miles in March and 18 miles in July. This time, he hopes to break the all-time record of 19.5 miles set in 1960.

A giant helium balloon will hoist a pressurized capsule with Baumgartner inside, dressed in a pressure suit.

Baumgartner expects to reach a top speed of 690 mph and break the sound barrier with only his body, less than a half-minute after he hops from his capsule.

The same capsule was used for Baumgartner's two practice jumps but was damaged in the latest touchdown. It smashed down hard despite its parachute, and the outer shell had to be replaced with parts from a backup capsule. The entire craft was taken apart and reassembled.

The repairs and retesting pushed the final flight from August to October.

"I feel like a tiger in a cage waiting to get out," Baumgartner, 43, said in a statement.

Project officials note that excellent weather will be needed to launch the 30 million-cubic-foot helium balloon from Roswell. Early fall is generally an optimal time for such endeavors.

The entire flight will be monitored by a NASA-like Mission Control; the mission is known as Red Bull Stratos, short for stratosphere. One of the lead team members is record-holder Joe Kittinger, who was an Air Force captain when he took part in the military high-jump project.

This time, the effort is privately funded by the energy drink maker.

Online:

Red Bull Stratos: http://www.redbullstratos.com/

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