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Red Bull-fueled daredevil plans record skydive from edge of space

Austrian extreme skydiver Felix Baumgartner plans to ascend in a helium balloon to about 23 miles up, and then jump. He will break the sound barrier during freefall. 

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Roughly 35 seconds after he jumps out, Baumgartner will reach supersonic speeds and will continue freefalling until he is about a mile above the ground, when he will deploy his parachute.

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The risks involved are multifold. At such lofty altitudes, Baumgartner will need a special pressure suit to insulate him against the thin air, freezing temperatures and low pressures. He must also resist falling into an uncontrolled spin, which could render him unconscious.

The team tried out some of the equipment and procedures Baumgartner plans to use during his jump in a recent test inside a vacuum chamber at Brooks City-Base in Texas.

"This test was enormously important for our self-confidence. The success has given us an additional boost to rise to the challenges that still lie ahead,” Baumgartner said.

The team plans to conduct the first manned test flights at altitude soon. 

Breaking records

Baumgartner previously became the first person to cross the English Channel in freefall in 2003. He's also made record-breaking parachute jumps from some of the world's tallest structures, including the World Financial Center T101 in Taipei, Taiwan, and the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

He is now attempting to break records set in 1960 by U.S. Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger, who leaped from a balloon at an altitude of about 102,800 feet (31,333 meters).

Since then, others have tried and failed to beat his performance. New Jersey native Nick Piantanida died trying to set a new record in 1966.

Now Kittinger is part of the Red Bull Stratos team, advising Baumgartner.

You can follow SPACE.com assistant managing editor Clara Moskowitz on Twitter @ClaraMoskowitz. Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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