ROSWELL, N.M.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, after 34 months of intense planning, development and training, Alan Eustace, supported by Paragon Space Development Corporation® (Paragon) and its Stratospheric Explorer (StratEx) team, made history with a near-space dive from a high-altitude balloon at approximately 135,000 feet. Eustace broke several records, including national record for highest exit altitude; world and national record for free fall under a drogue chute; national record for vertical speed. Additionally, he became the second person to break the sound barrier outside an aircraft.
Eustace was lifted to his peak altitude by a helium-filled scientific balloon while wearing a custom-made pressurized spacesuit. At over 135,000 feet, he began his dive, remaining in free fall for approximately 4.5 minutes before landing safely nearly 70 miles from his launch point.
The balloon, spacesuit and accompanying support systems were developed by Paragon and its StratEx technical team, comprised of ILC Dover (ILC); United Parachute Technologies (UPT); ADE Technologies Consulting, LLC (ADE); Dr. Jonathan Clark, M.D.; Julian Nott; Sreenivasan Shankarnarayan; Don Day; and World View Enterprises, Inc.
“I always wondered: what if you could design a system that would allow humans to explore the stratosphere as easily and safely as they do the ocean? With the help of the world-class StratEx team, I hope we've encouraged others to explore this part of the world about which we still know so little,” said Eustace.
A StratEx team goal was to develop a self-contained spacesuit system that allows for manned exploration of the stratosphere above 100,000 feet. Such a system has a wide range of applications in stratospheric science, development of spaceship crew egress and the study of suited aerodynamics above Mach 1. Today, this goal was achieved as Eustace pushed the limits of human exploration, accomplishing a new way to explore a largely unexplored part of our planet.
Grant Anderson, President and CEO and co-founder of Paragon, said, “The experience and dedication of the StratEx team was crucial to the program’s success. Together, Alan and the team today extended human spaceflight to the stratosphere in an important step to solidify the safety of future human endeavors. It is an honor to work with such an incredibly talented and accomplished group. This has opened up endless possibilities for humans to explore previously seldom visited parts of our stratosphere.”
In addition to Eustace’s passion and training, the StratEx team members made this feat possible by providing the innovative technology behind the jump:
- Paragon Space Development Corporation®: Paragon is the prime contractor for the StratEx project. The company designed and built the life support system, integrated the systems, and managed all aspects of the operation to ensure the success of the dive. Paragon’s specialization in life support and thermal control in extreme environments played a crucial role in the StratEx project, as well as setting the precedent for future manned spaceflight endeavors. For more information about Paragon’s involvement with the project, please click here.
- ILC Dover: For Eustace, there was no capsule. He depended on the advanced extra-vehicular activity pressure suit designed and produced by ILC, which served as his only barrier to the harsh ambient environment encountered throughout all mission phases. As part of this project, ILC’s role included pressure suit manufacture and testing, suit operation and maintenance, and flight test support. In order to minimize oxygen consumption and reduce overall system weight, the pressure suit was engineered to have minimal leakage at a higher pressure than any other operational U.S. spacesuit. In addition, this robust design provides long-duration wear, superior mobility, essential thermal protection and aerodynamic integration with the life support and parachute systems. For more information about ILC Dover, please click here.
- United Parachute Technologies: Eustace was returned to the ground under a drogue and parachute canopy designed and fabricated by United Parachute Technologies (UPT). UPT has been designing and manufacturing aerial delivery systems for recreational and military markets for more than four decades. Its unmatched experience with skydiving systems lent itself to the success and flawless execution of the StratEx project. For more information about UPT, please click here.
- ADE Aerospace Consulting, LLC: ADE provided a team of medical experts who were tasked with overseeing medical support services, contingency plans and recovery operations. ADE specializes in medical operations and human factors in extreme environments. For more information about ADE, please click here.
- Dr. Jonathan Clark, M.D.: Dr. Clark’s advisory role on the StratEx team was to educate the team on the risks and protocols of high-altitude parachuting, as well as offer his expertise in neurological effects of extreme environments. For more information about Dr. Clark please click here.
- Julian Nott: Julian Nott is a founder of the modern ballooning movement and one of its greatest, most creative proponents. During his long and extraordinary career he has broken 79 World Ballooning Records, and 96 British Records, including exceeding 55,000 feet in a hot air balloon. His records span many classes - hot air, helium, superpressure and combination balloons - and encompass altitude, distance and time aloft. For more information on Julian Nott please click here.
- Sreenivasan Shankarnarayan, Scientist in Charge (retired), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR): Since its inception in 1970, the TIFR Balloon Facility, located in Hyderabad, India has been used extensively by the Scientific Community from within the country as well as from abroad. All of the balloons for the StratEx program were manufactured by Balloon Facility off the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Hyderabad, India. Balloon Flights carrying payloads of scientific experiments in Cosmic Ray, X-Ray, Gamma Ray and Infrared Astronomy, Astrobiology as well as Atmospheric sciences have been launched from this facility with several important and interesting results being obtained. TIFR is unique in that it has all aspects of Scientific Ballooning i.e. Balloon Design and Fabrication, Payload Integration with Telemetry, Telecommand and other instrumentation, and finally Balloon Launch, Tracking, Data Collection, Balloon Flight Control, as also Payload Recovery, under one roof. For more information please click here.
- Don Day, President and Meteorologist of DayWeather, Inc.: DayWeather Inc., has extensive experience supporting high-altitude ballooning flights through weather forecasting, winds predictions and metrological advice. He has served the western United States with weather forecasting since 1992. Services include radio broadcast services and radio networks, newspaper weather forecast services, weather instrumentation, customized weather forecast services, consulting services, expert testimony, weather report writing and forensic meteorology. For more information please click here.
- World View Enterprises: Taber MacCallum, Chief Technology Officer of World View, a commercial balloon spaceflight company, served as CEO and CTO of Paragon and was involved with the development of the StratEx program. MacCallum then transitioned to the role of StratEx Safety Officer, working with the team to ensure Eustace’s wellbeing. For more information about World View please click here.
Special contributions were also made to Roswell site and operations support by the following: Aerowestern Helicopters, LLC; Win Aviation; Dave Jourdan, Nauticos, LLC; Jerry Kolber, Atomic Entertainment; James Hayhurst, US Parachute Association; Window Light Production, LLC; Roswell Fire Department; Ahern Rentals; ModSpace; Matheson, Roswell International Air Center; Vigil USA, LLC; Ft. Worth MIDO; Lubbock FSDO; Albuquerque ARTCC; Ft. Worth ARTCC; CSA Service Center; and FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation.
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