Preparing Felix for 120,000 feet happens one test jump at a time.
"I have done a lot of BASE jumps, which is totally different ballgame. That's why no one broke Joe Kittinger's records in 52 years -- because it is a difficult task." Felix Baumgartner
"We've moved beyond simulations. The manned jump from 71,581 feet is the first step to our ultimate goal." Joe Kittinger, Colonel USAF (Ret)
In preparation for Felix's first jump from the stratosphere, a long list of procedures came before he ever stepped inside the capsule. His training started years ago practicing high altitude jumps with Luke Aikins, his skydiving consultant, to ensure a solid body position in a relatively stiff pressurized suit. In addition to skydiving Felix has a whole team who supports him from every angle you can imagine, just to get him to the point where his performance in the pressure suit feels like second nature.
Two unmanned and two manned test flights had to be completed to the satisfaction of every teammember before the final flight to 128,100 ft could ever move forward. Looking back to the first manned flight and freefall from 71,581 feet, the Red Bull Stratos team was embarking on a mission with many unknowns. The night before March 15, 2012, as would happen for all test flights, the team received final safety and weather briefings. Meteorologist Don Day gave the go-ahead that the dawn 'weather window' was suitable for an attempted launch: relatively clear skies and calm winds. During the next eight hours, the capsule was positioned in its cradle on the launch crane, the runway cleared of small debris and the balloon laid out on a vast tarp to protect it from tearing.
Shortly before dawn, balloon inflation began. Felix suited up and began pre-breathing oxygen to eliminate nitrogen from his blood before he was sealed inside the pressurized capsule. With balloon inflation complete, the capsule lifted off the tarmac to begin its ascent.
Once the ascent was completed, Felix ran through his 39-step safety checklist before manually depressurizing the capsule, sliding open the round door and stepping off the external platform. He continued in freefall until reaching the optimum height to deploy his parachute and float safely back to earth. Upon landing he was met by the retrieval team, medical checks were conducted, and he was returned to the launch site.