High altitude skydiving

In 1959, space pioneer, test pilot, combat aviator, and world record holder Joseph Kittinger piloted a high-altitude balloon (Excelsior III) to a height of 102,800 feet before exiting the open gondola. He became the first man to exceed the speed of sound without an aircraft or space vehicle. It is still the highest parachute jump ever. The freefall lasted four minutes and thirty-six seconds, a record.

The idea of high-altitude parachuting inspired me to think of these same sort of ‘half baked’ ideas:

1) Strap a high altitude balloon to a skydiver (who would have an appropriately designed space suit) and let him go. When he gets to the right altitude he can pull a release that would seperate him from the balloon and begin his skydiving adventure. Maximum altitude of maybe 35km.

2) An “external” capsule. This would be a design where the passengers (maybe 4 or 5) would sit on the outside perimeter of a transport, in the center of the transport would be a rocket. The rocket powered transport would be lifted to a high altitude by a balloon and then the rocket would be ignited to take the transport to the official 100km “space limit”. The passengers would basically go straight up, there wouldn’t be any attempt to go into orbit or sub-orbit. Gravity would pull the transport back to Earth and parachutes deployed to slow the descent (maybe need retrorockets too).

I wonder if these ideas would work…?

Just out of curiosity, I took a look at the prices of weather balloons. The Chinese are selling a few (but they don’t list the price). These look pretty cheap.

On the other end of the high-altitude parachute jump price scale, there’s the Mount Everest Skydive..


About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
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2 Responses to High altitude skydiving

  1. Steve Sadlov says:

    Some useless trivia. He had a leak in one of his gloves, and it nearly froze his hand (not to mention, nearly causing either an embolism or the bends). Although there were a few attempts planned to best his record, which were supposed to have happened over the past 5 years, none have been followed through. The closest was one in Canada – alas, the balloon broke free prior to the jumper getting on board.

  2. marypmadigan says:

    Yes, Michel Fournier, I blogged about him before the jump. He’d been preparing for a long time..

    Even without jumping, these super-high altitude balloon trips are interesting. It’s a way of getting way up there without the cost or bother of rockets.

    I saw a history channel special about a super-armour-inspired suit that high-alt parachutists may wear. Hopefully it will keep people from getting frostbite or the bends –

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