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Sat, Oct 13, 2012

World’s Largest Manned Balloon Ready For Historic Mission

Red Bull Stratos Aircraft Is 55 Stories Tall, Spread Out Would Cover 40 Acres

The balloon that will take Felix Baumgartner up to 120,000 feet for his record-breaking mission is constructed of nearly transparent polyethylene strips about the same thickness as a dry cleaner bag, which are heat-sealed together. Despite the light weight of the polyethylene, Felix’s balloon weighs 3,708 pounds simply because there is so much of it (40 acres) needed to carry the Red Bull Stratos Capsule ... which weighs nearly 3,000 pounds ... aloft.

Ideal conditions are essential for the crew to launch the balloon because of the delicate eight-hour process of laying the balloon out and pumping it with the helium needed to raise Felix to the stratosphere. In total, the team will insert approximately 180,000 cubic feet of helium at launch which, as the balloon rises and the air pressure decreases, will expand until the entire capacity of the nearly 30 million cubic feet is full, allowing the balloon to rise far higher than regular hot air balloons.

The 55 story-high balloon is 10 times larger than Joe Kittinger’s in 1960 and three times bigger than the largest balloon ever launched with humans aboard. The balloon’s height when it reaches jump altitude will be 335 feet, with a diameter of 424 feet.

The team had two identical custom-made balloons on hand for Felix’s record-breaking attempt. One was used for the aborted launch on October 9 and cannot be re-used. An identical backup balloon will be used for the next attempt, which is currently scheduled for Sunday, Oct 14 The team is investigating the possibility of procuring a third balloon should it be needed.

(Image provided by Digital News Agency)



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