Felix Baumgartner: The suit

If you didn't know, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner has jumped from "near-space" for the world's first supersonic sky-dive. In our October Issue, we profile Baumgartner, and also take a look at his amazing suit:

Once he has ascended into the stratosphere, 120,000 feet above Earth, Felix Baumgartner will leave his pressurised capsule and start his free fall back down to terra firma. He needs a pressurised suit to survive that. Temperatures of around -57ºC will have to be endured. The low air pressure at altitudes above 19.3KM means that without the suit, water in the blood would practically boil and ultimately kill the man in whose veins it flows.

This helmet, made of composite materials, was developed by David Clark. Inside the helmet Baumgartner has a microphone and earphones for communication. The visor, which can be heated so that it doesn’t fog or ice up, has an adjustable sunshade. Baumgartner will also get oxygen through the helmet; during the jump the oxygen comes from two portable cylinders contained in the parachute rig.


You can distinguish Baumgartner’s suit from those made for pilots and astronauts by the cut. Mobility is not that important to them. Baumgartner, on the other hand, will be in free fall: Imagine a ski-jumper in flight, but positioned head first. The strap in front of the chest is a helmet tie-down. It is there to keep the helmet on the head when the pressure suit inflates (because the pressure tends to lift the helmet right off the shoulders). The strap affects Baumgartner’s position, because it’s short while he is sitting and he has to extend it to stand up when he exits the capsule.

... you’ve got to go. So there’s a urine collection container under Baumgartner’s seat. A hose connects it to a condom-like device inside the suit. Before exiting the capsule, he will disconnect the hose and close the zip on his suit.

The gloves are detachable from the suit, which offers optimal comfort and dexterity for as long as possible before flight. A mirror has been affixed to each glove to aid Baumgartner’s limited peripheral vision in the helmet. He will be wearing a pair of boots that are substantially larger than his foot size so that pressurized booties (which are part of the suit’s interior “bladder”) can go inside them. The white suit fabric that covers the exterior of his boots is fire retardant.


Like the helmet, the gloves are also made airtight. They are attached to the suit by a rotatable wristband.

A peek below the surface. Here you can see how painstakingly the crocheted artificial-fiber netting has been put in place. The wires lead to Baumgartner’s boot heaters.

SUIT CONTROLLER (left hole in picture above)
Automatically maintains the pressure in the suit at a steady level despite the changes in altitude that Baumgartner experiences.

VENT HOSE FITTING (right hole in picture above)
Used to ventilate the suit with warm or cool air during the ascent. Warm air can help to keep Baumgartner from being “cold soaked,” while cool air can avert perspiration, which fogs the visor.

Now, relive the historic, death-defying jump that happened this morning here:

Read more about Felix Baumgartner's attempt - including a first-hand account of his experiences jumping out of crazy-high altitude leading up to this jump
- in our October Issue, out now in newsstands. For more info, visit redbullstratos.com. Download the Red Bulletin app for more extraordinary stories.

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