By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
A plan to fly to 120,000 feet in a helium balloon then parachute back to Earth is back on schedule this week after a long hiatus, Red Bull said on Tuesday. The Red Bull Stratos team is working with Col. Joe Kittinger to break the record he set 52 years ago for the longest jump. The effort began in 2005 but was put on hold in 2010 while a legal challenge was sorted out. The dispute was settled out of court, a Red Bull spokesperson told AVweb, and the team is now making final preparations for the record attempt, to take place in Roswell, N.M. Felix Baumgartner, a certificated helicopter and balloon pilot and record-setting B.A.S.E. jumper, will make the jump.
Kittinger was an Air Force test pilot working with the space program when he made his record jump from 102,800 feet in 1960. He set three records that have never been surpassed -- the fastest freefall, at 614 mph; freefall from the highest altitude; and longest time in freefall, 4 minutes and 36 seconds. At the time, he also set a record for highest manned balloon flight, but that record was broken in 1961 during a Navy test flight to 113,740 feet. The Stratos team aims to break all four of those records. Specially developed camera systems will document the mission from the balloon and from the ground, and will webcast the jump live online at redbullstratos.com. Click here for a five-minute video about the project.