Another of Tuesday’s incredible milestones is Felix Baumgartner’s ride to the edge of space. Surprisingly, the balloon he’s being carried up in is a standard design, utilizing principles and materials that have been refined over 60 years of high-altitude scientific balloon flights, but as you can see in the scale below, the incredible size of Baumgartner’s balloon is unprecedented.
1. The typical hot air balloon
Height: 75 feet
Typical sightseeing altitude: 2,000 feet
2. The size used in the first Red Bull Stratos test jump
Height: 127 feet
Jump altitude: 71,581 feet
3. The balloon size of USAF colonel Joseph Kittinger’s Excelsior III Jump in 1960
Height: 185 feet
Jump altitude: 102,800 feet
4. The size of Red Bull Stratos Test Jump 2 balloon
Height: 210 feet
Jump altitude: 97,145.7 feet
5. The size of Tuesday’s Red Bull Stratos Mission balloon
Height: 334.82 feet
Target altitude: 120,000 feet
More balloon facts
Type: The balloon is filled with helium to create lift. Helium is non-flammable, non-toxic if vented to the atmosphere and a safe, predictable method of ascent.
Material: It is constructed of strips of high-performance polyethylene (plastic) film that is only 0.0008 inches thick. In total, these strips would cover 40 acres if they were laid flat. Polyester-fiber reinforced load tapes are incorporated to do the weight bearing.
Size, volume, and shape: The balloon for Felix’s mission from the edge of space will be nearly 30 million cubic feet in capacity – 10 times larger than Joe Kittinger’s balloon in 1960.
At launch, it will be tall and thin, stretching 55 stories high. As the balloon ascends, the helium will expand and the balloon will slowly fill out to an almost completely round shape. The overall launch process for this kind of balloon requires approximately 8 hours of preparation immediately before launch, including about 45 to 60 minutes for insertion of the helium.
Weight: The uninflated balloon weighs 3,708 pounds
- Data and graphic provided by Red Bull Stratos Team