Watch the inside story of Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking space jump from the perspective of Red Bull Stratos Technical Director, Art Thompson in this exclusive video of his RAeS Lecture.  [caption id="attachment_8646" align="alignnone" width="376"] Art Thompson outlined the impressive technical effort behind the Red Bull Stratos project.[/caption] On 24 October 2013 attendees at a Royal Aeronautical Society event in London were privileged to hear the inside story from Art Thompson, CEO Sage Cheshire Aerospace and Project Director for the record-breaking Red Bull Stratos project, which last October saw Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner jump from 127,000ft and in doing so become the first human to go through the sound barrier without an aircraft. In this exclusive video from the lecture Thompson describes the painstaking scientific, technical and engineering challenges behind this seven year, $11m project - with one of the biggest challenges: "to convince an energy drink company to invest in a multi-step flight test programme".  

But what did it achieve?

[caption id="attachment_8647" align="alignnone" width="376"] The science may one day help save lives, but has also provided a beacon of inspiration. (Red Bull Stratos)[/caption] He also sets out some of the concrete achievements and advances being brought about by this aeronautical record attempt. The mission saw Thompson design a hingeless, pressure door able to rolled open by one finger, as well as solid state circuit breakers able to work in a vacuum. The David Clark pressure suit was heavily modified to allow a stable freefall position, move the centre of gravity higher and use an asymmetric drogue chute to counter spin. Finally a reefed parachute safety system was developed that could have got the capsule and Felix to Earth in 20mins instead of the usual hour and a half, in a precision landing spot. As well as presentations to NASA, the USAF, Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and research papers the knowledge gained has already had practical benefits. NASA has already lowered the cockpit pressure altitude on its ER-2 high-altitude research aircraft in light of the evidence from the Stratos project. The safety knowledge and escape systems also may be useful for future high-altitude aircraft pilots, astronauts and for the new generation of space tourists. Thompson also notes that this sort of partnership between scientists, engineers and corporate sponsors and marketeers, correctly managed could become the model for future scientific or space exploration endeavours. But perhaps Red Bull Stratos’ most important achievement was that of inspiration. In a jaded world where ‘reality TV celebrities’ are lauded as heroes, the Red Bull Stratos project showed that the impossible can become possible. Watched by some 3 billion people on the planet, its real value may be in the inspiration it has provided for the next generation to reach for the stars. Watch the exclusive lecture video below:            

Tim Robinson
25 October 2013