Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian skydiver, performed a challenging test jump on Thursday March 15, 2012.

Felix Baumgartner has the right stuff. He is a well known BASE jumper. B.A.S.E. means Buildings; Aerials; Spans (jumps from bridges); and Earth (jumps from cliffs). He performed numerous stunts such as jumping from the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, World Financial Center T101 in Taipei, and the Millau viaduct.

Yesterday’s jump test is just a stage in his attempt to break a new free-fall record. He jumped above Roswell, New Mexico at an altitude of 71,581 feet ie 21.8 kilometers; 13.6 miles; or Flight Level 716. He should then carry out another jump test before leaping again from a capsule lifted by a helium balloon at around 120,000 ft ie 23 miles or 37 km this year, and could become the first man to break the sound barrier while free falling.




This is not a simple leap in the sky. People may not understand how dangerous skydiving at such heights is. The air density is so low that it cannot brake movements as drag becomes poorer up there.

Therefore, a position mistake can make the human body tumble violently or spin very fast. High rotation speeds involve high-G forces due to the centrifugal force, and may lead to G-LOC (G-force induced Loss Of Consciousness), and even to the rupture of blood vessels.

Moreover, if a spacesuit were to leak (due to a dormant seal failure or a cracked/crazed faceplate, for instance), the blood could be boiling (ebullism at 37°C above 63,000 ft or 19 km) because of the very low air pressure, and the body could be swelling, and actually freezing to death as the external temperature can reach down to -70°C, and even lower, not to mention the risk of pulmonary barotrauma.

The current record is held by Joseph Kittinger (a former USAF pilot who is curently advising Felix Baumgartner on his project) who jumped from 102,800 feet in 1960. He temporarily lost the use of his hand which got twice as big as a glove seal was leaking during the final part of the ascent. With this test jump, Felix Baumgartner already belongs to the highest three skydivers along with Joe Kittinger, and Russian Eugene Andreev who performed the longest parachute jump from 83,523 feet (25.5 km).

The following video shows that this feat is not only a matter of pushing limits as researchers are working on this Red Bull Stratos project to prepare flight safety of the future spacecraft:



New-York to Los Angeles in 12 minutes… It would have been a record-breaker, had it worked:

The DARPA and USAF FALCON project might give anybody the thrill of speed as this « aerospacecraft » has been designed to reach Mach 20 i.e. around 20,000 km/h; 5.6 km/s; 10,800 knots; or 12,400 mph depending on the air temperature, and the altitude which might be above at least FL900!

DARPA USAF FALCON HTV-2 hypersonic aerospacecraft - 22 April 2011
DARPA HTV-2 - 22 April 2011 ---- Photo: DARPA, US Federal Government

Unfortunately, the project seems to encounter major difficulties as the last test which unfolded on August 11, 2011 failed again. The previous one – also on an HTV2 – had failed in April. Click on the right-hand side picture to get further information on the first test. The Blackswift (HTV-3X)  had been designed by ATK; Boeing; Lockheed Martin; and Skunk Works to provided a strategic strike anywhere in the world within an hour. It was cancelled due to a lack of funds (see the HTV-3 shown in the following video):



  • DARPA stands for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
  • FALCON stands for Force Application and Launch from CONtinental United States
  • FL stands for Flight Level (FL x 100ft = altitude)
  • HTV stands for Hypersonic Test Vehicle or Hypersonic Technology Vehicle
  • RCS means here in the videos: Reaction Control System (and not Radar Cross Section)

Click on the picture below, and then on the blue arrows to watch the different phases of light:

Flight Overview slide, MACH-20 DARPA AEROSPACECRAFT
Flight Overview slide - Interactive picture: DARPA, U.S. Federal Government



Thanks to its HTAL (High Torque Aerial Lift) advanced tilt-duct propulsion system, the AD-150 Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) has been designed to take off and land vertically (VTOL) as well as reach a speed of about 300 knots.

It is still being developed by American Dynamics Flight Systems. Its airframe is to be made up of carbon fiber and kevlar materials. It could be one of the most effective drones of its generation with its versatile payload configuration; GCS interfaces; and interoperable data links. Its Pratt and Whitney engines could be feed with Jet-A; JP-4; and JP-5 fuel.



FLYING from Paris to New-York in 1.5 hours at Mach 4 !

This is the brand new project being designed by EADS, and supported by Japan as well as the French DGAC (Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile – FAA or CAA equivalent). The European consortium has just unveiled its ZEHST project as the Paris Air Show 2011 is opening. ZEHST stands for Zero Emission Hypersonic Transportation.

This aircraft would be both a commercial airplane, and a rocket. It could cruise at « flight level 1056 » i.e. 20 miles or 32 kilometers above the mean sea level… The ZEHST specifications feature a speed of Mach 4 but according to the video below, it might reach Mach 4.5 i.e. 5,500 km/h or 3,000 kts through the stratosphere. It would use two independent turbojets for taking off, then it would gain speed thanks to two cryogenic rocket engines, finally two ramjets would propell the aircraft to hypersonic speeds.

The ZEHST is supposed to pollute far less than the Concorde as it would have a main cruise stage in the stratospheric layers, and according to EADS, its carbon footprint should be very low. There could between 60 and 100 passengers on board who could join Tokyo from Paris in 2.5 hours instead of 11.5, and New-York in 1.5 hours instead of 8! The prototype is expected to fly by 2020, and the first passengers might enjoy stratospheric flights around 2050.

Watch the video:


Brand new drone in China

The V750 is a brand new unmanned helicopter designed by Qingdao Haili. It successfully completed its maiden flight in Shandong province three weeks ago.

This UAV has a load capacity of more than 77 kg. It can reach more than 160 km/h, and it can be remote-controlled from up to 153 kilometers away. The V750 drone could be used for ISR purpose. With a weight of 100 kg, it is deemed to be the largest drone in China as it could be as large as the American MQ-8 « Fire Scout ».

Watch the video (in Chinese):