6 Feb 2013

Skyjump even faster than thought

8:48 am on 6 February 2013

Austrian Felix Baumgartner fell even faster during his historic skydive than was originally thought.

Analysis has revealed that the daredevil attained a speed of 1357.6km/h when he leapt from his stratospheric balloon over the New Mexico desert on 14 October last year - about 15km/h above what was initially reported.

Baumgartner's stated aim was to become the first person to break the sound barrier unaided by a vehicle and did this. His final Mach number was 1.25.

But although his vertical velocity has been revised upwards, the 43-year-old's jump altitude has been corrected downwards slightly, the BBC reports.

The additional analysis shows he stepped out of his special capsule at 38,969.4 metres, a reduction from the previous estimate of 39,045 metres.

Millions across the world followed his progress on internet video feeds as he climbed slowly into the sky in his five-storey-high helium balloon, before making a rapid, 10-minute descent to Earth, with just under five of those minutes spent in freefall.

The biggest moment of drama came when he went into a spin as he hurtled towards the ground, turning at a maximum rate of 60 revolutions per minute. He had to use all the skills picked up in more than 2500 career skydives to recover a stable configuration and complete the dive safely.

Baumgartner's feats bettered the marks set 50 years previously by Joe Kittinger.

The now-retired United States Air Force colonel leapt from a helium envelope in 1960. His altitude was 31,300 metres, but his top speed was just short of the sound barrier.