Alan Eustace and the Paragon StratEx Team make stratospheric exploration history at over 135,000 feet.

The Record

On April 14, 2015 the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, FAI - The World Air Sports Federation released the official parachuting world record breaking numbers.

Exit Altitude

  • 41 422 m
  • Previous record 38 969.4 m set by Felix Baumgartner of Austria

Distance fall with drogue device

  • 37 623 m
  • No previous record set

Vertical speed with a drogue device

  • 1320 km/h
  • No previous record set

The Mission

StratEx is short for Stratospheric Explorer. The StratEx program goal was to develop a self-contained spacesuit and recovery system that would allow manned exploration of the stratosphere above 100,000 feet. Such a system has wide-ranging applications for; the study of the science of the stratosphere, development of means for spaceship crew egress, the study of dynamics of bodies at Mach 1, new high altitude aircraft suits, and setting of records for space diving, sailplaning and ballooning. StratEx flew using a scientific balloon, and is capable of being used with different kinds of vehicles other than balloons, such as stratospheric aircraft.

The Man

Alan Eustace, Google's Senior Vice President, took a not-so-typical sabbatical from his daily life as an executive by contacting Paragon to achieve his goals. Paragon formed a dedicated, experienced technical team that would further test the boundaries of science by sending a man to the Stratosphere via a helium-filled scientific balloon while wearing a custom-made pressurized spacesuit and Paragon designed life support system.

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.
      — Alan Eustace

The Story


The Team

Alan Eustace

Robert Alan Eustace, is Senior Vice President of Knowledge at Google Inc., and has been with Google since 2002. Alan is responsible for the Research organization at Google. Prior to Google, Alan spent 15 years at Digital/Compaq/HP's Western Research Laboratory where he worked on a variety of chip design and architecture projects, including the fastest microprocessor of its era. He has developed a wide variety of program analysis and computer architecture analysis tools that have a profound influence on chip designs. Alan is actively involved in a number of Google's community-related activities, including The Second Harvest Food Bank, the Anita Borg Scholarship Fund and the Internet Society (ISOC). He is an Author of 9 publications and 10 patents. Dr. Eustace holds a BS, MS, and a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Central Florida.

Alan has been a pilot for 25 years, with ratings in a number of high performance piston and turbine aircraft, and is an avid skydiver.

Paragon Space Development Corporation®

Paragon was prime systems integrator for the mission. While applying its core expertise in life support design and production to provide the suit life support system, Paragon also provided primary design of the complete system of launch, tracking, recovery, landing and support elements. Specific developments included unique balloon launch systems, integration and testing of the drogue and parachute recover system, ground and airborne testing and training, communications systems, overall mission operations coordination and training, mission control systems design and, finally, execution of the entire team’s operation.

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SEBASTIAN PADILLA, Project Manager headed a diverse core team of innovative engineers in the development, testing and operations of the entire StratEx System from after program/architecture definition to the record breaking launch. Utilizing multi-disciplinary engineering, Sebastian led the StratEx team in devising a revolutionary launch system that took manned balloon flight to unprecedented heights. At the heart of this enterprise was their novel approach of simply outfitting the StratEx Pilot in a state-of-the-art pressure suit and strapping him to a high altitude helium balloon. To ensure the Pilot’s safety, Sebastian and the StratEx Team developed and implemented a new, safer launch method and hardware for the manned balloon flight system, created and produced in-house telemetry hardware and software to monitor and track the Pilot and the released balloon, as well as customized and assembled a Mission Control facility to fit StratEx’s needs.

As Flight Director charged with the safety and success of the ground breaking mission, Sebastian oversaw all mission teams and worked closely with them in developing operations, procedures, team roles and crew training to ensure every team member was practiced and well versed in all aspects of the mission to make for a safe, expedient flight. Commanding mission control, Sebastian made all launch and flight decisions and directly communicated with the StratEx Pilot throughout the flight, guiding him to a safe landing.

For Sebastian, it was a great privilege and honor to have worked with such an inspiring and hard working group of people who share the love of innovation and making the impossible possible.

GARY A LANTZ, Architecture Definition Lead and Program Manager from inception through program definition while providing the initial definition of the technical program and structuring the program to account for all requirements of the customer.  Gary identified and met with key partners, technical advisors, subcontractors, and suppliers to establish a team capable of executing the complex program under a veil of secrecy.  To ensure successful execution of the program, Gary structured the major program elements, their organization and assignment, and management of the program to the task level while responding to emerging early technical challenges with real-time restructuring of the plan and communication of changes and challenges to the customer and upper management.

For Gary, it is humbling to have laid down the foundation of a program of this type with a unique approach and very capable team.  A team that, through diligence, perseverance, innovation, and most importantly a respect for collaboration and communication, was able to accomplish something that surprised the world.

NORMAN HAHN was the StratEx Project Engineer and Navigator in Mission Control. As Project Engineer Norman focused on the system level aspects of the design including requirements, regulatory issues, system testing and ConOps. He was also the overall technical lead providing oversight and input to all aspects of the flight hardware. Mr. Hahn developed much of the Chase strategy and developed the application of the hardware and software needed to ensure the prompt arrival of Chase assets. As Navigator in Mission Control Norman coordinated the movements of the Chase vehicles (4 helicopters, 3 trucks, 1 fixed wing aircraft) to put them in the proper position to acquire the pilot under parachute and deliver medical and technical assistance immediately after landing.

JARED LEIDICH was the Pressure Suit Assembly (PSA) lead responsible for directing the operations of the suit system and any engineering changes for the life support pack, pressure suit and parachute pack. During the development phases of the program Jared was the Integrated Product Team Lead for the design of the life support pack and recovery system leading the design effort for the life support pack and working closely with United Parachute Technologies and ILC Dover on the interfaces and design of the suit, parachute rig and attachment / release mechanisms. During development Jared served as Alan’s body-double donning the pressure suit to test various suit system elements. During operations Jared led the PSA team in the suit up operations, ran the mobile mission control ECLS console from the chase helicopter and was a first responder at Alan’s landing site.

JOSH HECHT helped to implement Chase Team tracking equipment as the design / hardware was finalized. On flight days he executed pre-flight checklists and hardware readiness, and was the navigator for the Chase 2 truck that served as the Chase Lead for the recovery team. He also acted as part of the balloon launch team, controlling and regulating the helium flow to the fill team’s diffusers so that the correct amount of lift could be achieved. As the Logistics Lead, he coordinated all of the logistics while the team was deployed in Roswell; managing hardware procurement & delivery, day to day supplies & resupply, heavy equipment maintenance and upkeep, as well as keeping the nominally 30+ (up to as much as 70 on Flight days) StratEx team comfortable and well fed.

JOHN STRAUS was the Flight Vehicle Integrated Product Team (IPT) lead responsible for directing the development of the flight vehicle and launch systems. The flight vehicle includes the balloon envelope and the balloon equipment module (BEM), which houses the flight avionics and which serves as the physical interface between the envelope, the pilot, and the launch system. John worked closely with balloon expert S. Sreenivasan, Julian Nott, and Frank Candeleria in developing the design of the flight vehicle and the launch procedures. During operations, John helped ready the balloons for flight and served as the Launch Manager, directing operations of the three launch-specific sub-teams: Diesel, BEM, and Fill. John worked closely with Meteorology and the Flight Director to establish launch layout direction and launch time. During flight, John assisted the Flight Director in mission control as a backroom consultant.

ROLFE BODE held three positions within the program. He served as the program Test Lead and as members of the Launch BEM team and Recovery Team. As Test Lead, Rolfe worked with Project and Product Leads in developing overall test strategy, wrote or reviewed test plans and procedures, designed test beds for in house testing and identified facilities for outsourced testing, acted as Test Lead/Conductor during tests and contributed to data reduction and analysis. During operations, Rolfe served as the BEM team lead and was responsible for ensuring that the BEM avionics and balloon destruct mechanism was functioning properly for flight and was properly secured to the balloon and launch plate. This responsibility extended to BEM refurbishment following flights. Rolfe also served as the BEM Engineer in Chase 2 for recovery operations. The BEM Engineer was able to monitor and control the BEM during flight and served as back up to mission control.

DAN MCFATTER, Avionics Lead, lead the development, testing and integration of the electronics and software used to complete the mission. He personally wrote most the custom software used in mission control and helped write the firmware used in the spacesuit and balloon avionics. During the operations phase he was the Flight Engineer in mission control that monitored the telemetry and sent the commands to control the balloon avionics.

ESTEBAN GARCIA served as the primary technician for the StratEx program, assisting with the initial build of the PSA equipment module (EM) and working directly with the design engineers to build the BEM avionics modules. During operations Esteban served with Rolfe on the launch BEM team and worked to ensure that the BEM was fully operational and integrated with the Balloon for flight. He also helped ready the balloons for flight. Esteban performed all refurbishment tasks for the BEM. Esteban also served as navigator on Chase 4 for recovery operations.

TRAVIS PALMER was a late-comer to the StratEx program but was quickly absorbed into several aspects of the program including management as the deputy program manager to Sebastian. During operations, Travis served as member of the launch BEM team and as the driver for Chase 2 recovery. For the launch BEM team, Travis worked with Rolfe and Esteban to ensure that the BEM was fully operational and integrated with the Balloon for flight.

PATRICK PASADILLA provided logistics support early in the program, which included preparing the facility at RIAC for operational use. Patrick’s primary role was to serve as the launch Diesel team lead, which was borne from his assistance in identifying the heavy equipment needed for launch. The Diesel team was responsible for laying out the heavy launch support equipment which included light towers, launch plate, jersey barriers and tethers, Spork and Spork vehicle, ground cloths and balloon layout. During the balloon stand-up process, Patrick was responsible for holding the crown valve during fill, removing the protective cover from the balloon and later assisted in moving Alan underneath the balloon. Patrick also served as driver in Chase 4 for recovery operations.

BRIAN RICHARDSON assisted with logistics, but primarily served as a member of the Diesel team, assisting Patrick with the setup of the launch support equipment. Brian had the formidable task of operating the Spork vehicle during the balloon fill and balloon stand-up operations.

JOSEPH LEVY became the early expert in overall operations as the key coordinator of the Flight Manual and Operations timeline and was thus tapped as the deputy Launch Manager. Joe played a major role in readying balloons for flight. He also became the expert in communication radio and repeater operation and ensured that all radios were operational for flight. Joe’s primary role, however, was as the launch Fill team lead. During operations, the Fill team was responsible for laying out the high pressure helium system and readying the balloon fill tubes for integration with the helium diffusers, as well as filling the balloon. Joe was one of the two helium diffuser operators. Joe assisted with Spork operation and pulled the trigger line that launched Alan to the stratosphere.

JACOB DANG was the go-to design engineer for most of the launch system hardware designed, developed, procured, and (in most cases) assembled and tested the launch sedan, the helium supply system ,launch plate, launch plate tethers, primary and secondary BEM tethers, and balloon collar. Jacob also served as a member of the launch Fill team. During operations, Jacob worked with Joe to layout the helium fill equipment; Jacob was as one of the two helium diffuser operators. Following the fill operation, Jacob was responsible for getting the launch collar installed onto the balloon and assisted with Spork operation.

ZANE MACCAGNANO was responsible for the Environmental Control and Life Support (ECLS) suit elements contributing much of the early suit system design and analysis of the overall life support system. During operations Zane managed the ground support equipment and sat in Mission Control at the ECLS console position and was PSA lead when Jared was unavailable or in the suit. Zane was responsible for the design and build of nearly all the ground support equipment used with the suit system and operated the ground support equipment during the suit-up process as well as leading the design for the structural and mechanical packaging of the balloon avionics packages and pressure suit interface to the balloon.

RYAN OSBORN, Communications Engineer,  was responsible for ground support hardware that processed StratEx Data, Voice and Video Communication. During the development he contributed to the architecture and verification testing of these systems. With his existing near space ballooning experience, he provided support in developing the flight communications systems. He was responsible for design & assembling of Mission Control and the mobile data communications trailer. During flights he managed the communications systems as part of the core mission control team. And, he supported meteorology on flight days to launch & track Radiosonde weather balloons during flights.

CHRISTIE IACOMINI was the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) Lead during the development phase. As the ECLSS Lead, she was responsible for overseeing development of the systems that provide the pilot’s pressurized environment, breathable air, thermal control, and hydration as well as monitor health. The ECLSS responsibilities also included developing ground support equipment for readying the pilot, such as pressure suit cooling and leak checks, and pilot oxygen pre-breath. Christie also served as the Pressure Suit Module Integrated Product Team Lead, leading the integration of the pressure suit and ECLSS hardware through acceptance testing.

FRANK CANDELERIA is a retired Launch Director for NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF), having worked with them for approximately 25 years. Though Frank continues to contract for CSBF during ballooning season, Frank managed to find time to provide significant assistance to John Straus in refining the launch procedures used for the unmanned and manned StratEx flights, offering guidance on team leadership and with balloon layout and balloon fill operations.

BOB REDINGER is a retired Meteorologist for NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (CSBF), having worked with them for approximately 6 years. Though Bob was unavailable to support any of the manned launches, Bob provided meteorological support to Don Day, served as Navigation for the Flight Director, and provided launch Fill assistance for all flights leading up to the manned program.

ILC Dover

ILC Dover was responsible for the design, development, and production of the advanced space dive pressure suit which served as Alan’s only barrier to the harsh ambient environment throughout all mission phases. Coupled with the Paragon-designed and built life support system, the pressure suit provided the contained environment that enabled him to survive the upper atmosphere and perform actions necessary for a safe descent. As part of this program, ILC’s role included pre-delivery pressure suit verification testing, field support of validation 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 while operating at 5.4 psid, a higher pressure than any operational U.S. spacesuit. This robust design provides long duration wear, superior mobility, essential thermal protection, and aerodynamic integration with the life support and parachute systems.

RYAN LEE led the effort to design, build and operate the StratEx pressure suit. During the development phases of the program Ryan developed the initial suit design working with Paragon to incorporate the life support components and develop interfaces between the suit, life support pack and parachute pack with major contributions to the life support pack design through the development process. During operations Ryan suited Alan up in the donning process, was the navigator for the chase helicopter and was a first responder at Alan’s landing site. 

MITCH SWEENEY was the primary engineering technician, master fabricator, machinist, and prototyper responsible for the build, operation, and upkeep of the Stratex pressure suit.  Mitch was involved in several of the engineering changes made with the pressure suit assembly and life support pack leading the effort to design and build several system components.  During operations Mitch suited Alan up in the donning process, was navigator for the chase Helicopter, and was a first responder at Alan's landing site.


Cobham Mission Systems, in Orchard Park NY, provided Paragon with the space suit pressurization and oxygen breathing gas components that were integrated into the suit's life support system. Leveraging its world leading gas management technology, Cobham engineers modified its state-of-the-art PHANTOM high altitude parachutist regulators to regulate flow from the oxygen supply cylinders into the suit. Inside the suit, Cobham provided its breathing regulator and exhalation valve components - used in military high altitude flights and space crew escape suits - to allow Alan to breathe comfortably while his exhaled gas was captured and flowed into the suit. Pressure inside the suit was controlled by Cobham's suit controller component, which was modified to achieve the highest pressure setting ever in any space suit helping to lower the risk of decompression sickness.

Cobham's flight proven breathing and suit pressurization life support technology has been used exclusively on military high altitude pressurized suits, the Space Shuttle Advanced Crew Escape Suit, as well as the Extravehicular Mobility Unit, which allows astronauts to breathe while performing space walks. Also, Cobham supplied integrated cabin pressurization subsystems for the space shuttle and currently for the International Space Station.

Since the first breathing regulator used by John Glenn on Project Mercury, every US astronaut has breathed using Cobham equipment. Cobham continues to be a key supplier for life support equipment as evidenced by its critical role in this record setting program.

United Parachute Technologies

United Parachute Technologies was responsible for the recovery systems (drogue, parachute) design and manufacturing as well as flight training of Alan and safety skydivers. For over four decades, United Parachute Technologies have designed and manufactured 60,000+ quality skydiving Harness/Container Systems for the military and sport skydivers all over the world! The company is owned by Bill Booth, who is the brilliant mind behind many of the lifesaving innovations found on every skydiving system in the world today.

Consistent innovators and perfectionists, our engineers continue to make improvements to the production and design of our products. This determination to make the most comfortable and safest skydiving and military aerial delivery systems in the world has resulted in global domination in the sport, tandem and military markets. United Parachute Technologies has produced more freefall systems than any other company in the world, and is currently leading the way through innovation and design.

United Parachute Technologies teamed up with Performance Designs who designed the main and reserve canopy. Vigil America supplied the automatic activation device, the Vigil Military II+ which is designed and manufactured by Advanced Aerospace Designs.

DANIEL “BLIKKIES” BLIGNAUT was responsible for the design and build of the StratEx parachute system, attachment rigging, release mechanisms and primary balloon release rigging. Blikkies worked with virtually every group within the StratEx team at some point during the program aiding in the design, build and operation of components for the Suit Team, launch team and chase team. During operations Blikkies worked with the PSA team to assemble and don the attachment rigging and parachute pack, aided in the final steps of the launch process and then boarded an aircraft to parachute into Alan’s landing site guiding Alan into a safe location for landing and serving as a first responder.

ADE Aerospace Consulting, LLC

ADE Aerospace LLC, in Houston TX, provided the medical team and training needed for StratEx.  Given the unique risks taken in a flight at these altitudes and the remote location for flight activities, ADE was tasked with providing a medical response team that could deal with a medical emergency in any phase of flight.  Unique risks to consider included more than just landing trauma in the event of parachute failure - high spin rates in freefall, decompression or ebullism at high altitudes, toxicologic and burn exposures in the event of suit or life support failure were all high priority risks that required in-field assessment and management plans.  ADE supported early suit testing, altitude and thermal chamber testing, hypoxia training, airplane testing jumps, and all the manned balloon flights.  To provide medical coverage a team of actively practicing physicians and paramedics with prior experience in Emergency Medicine, Aerospace Medicine, and Wilderness Medicine was assembled to provide medical support as needed for the flight and the crew on the ground. 

Dr. Erik Antonsen acted as Field Medical Director for the StratEx Program and is a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician.  During operations he was the lead Physician and first responder on the Chase 1 helicopter and he provided medical care as needed for the StratEx support crew.  He helped design the medical equipment requirements, coordinate Chase team medical elements, and create the emergency response plans for medical contingencies.  He also acted as backup flight surgeon for Dr. Jon Clark in Mission Control.  Dr. Antonsen also holds Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Aerospace Engineering and currently works as an attending Emergency Medicine Physician at Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston Texas.  He is an Assistant Professor in Emergency Medicine and Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine

Dr. Alex Garbino was the Medical Team representative on the Pressure Suit Assembly team.  He performed pre-flight physical examinations for the pilot, helped with suit donning and doffing for flights, and was a medical monitor for pre-breathe and in-suit operations.  He led the design of medical equipment requirements and helped create the emergency response plans for medical contingencies.  In field operations he acted as the assistant Physician on the Chase 1 helicopter and was a first responder on landing.  Dr. Garbino also holds a Ph.D. in Translational Biology and Molecular Medicine and is currently a Chief Resident at Baylor College of Medicine Emergency Medicine Residency Program.   

Dr. Derek Nusbaum is a Board Certified Internal Medicine Physician and led the ground crew clinic operations during StratEx.  He helped design the medical equipment requirements, coordinate Chase team elements, and create the emergency response planning and coordination for likely medical contingencies.  He also acted as medical backup for the Pressure Suit Assembly team.  During operations he was the lead Physician on the Chase 3 helicopter, was a first responder on landing, and provided medical care as needed for the StratEx ground crew.  Dr. Nusbaum also holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Space Physiology and is currently working as an attending physician at the Methodist Hospitals in Livingston and Lufkin, Texas.  He is also an Adjunct Professor of Emergency Medicine and Space Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine. 

Giugi Carminati is a practicing attorney and has an LLM in Space, Cyber, and Telecommunications Law.  Counselor Carminati designed the medical release and coordinated informed consent for ADE Aerospace.  Counselor Carminati is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Houston Law Center.  She is a member of the International Institute of Space Law and an Officer for the North America Round for the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition.  She is also the bestselling author of the book, “The Laws of Spaceflight: A Guidebook for Newspace Lawyers.”

Dr. Daniel Buckland provided medical support during thermal suit testing.  He is an Emergency Medicine resident at George Washington Emergency Medicine Residency Program and holds a Ph.D. in Bioastronautics. 

Dr. Matt Turney is a Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician who acted as Physician for the Chase 3 helicopter during field operations.  He was also the lead flight physician during the Red Bull Stratos program.  Dr. Turney currently works in Amarillo Texas as an Emergency Medicine Physician and computer programmer. 

Dr. Anil Menon provided operational input and contingency support for the StratEx missions.  He helped with team preparation and flew on Chase 3 Helicopter during the tests and missions.  Dr. Menon is residency and fellowship trained in Emergency Medicine, Wilderness Medicine, and Aerospace Medicine. He currently works at NASA Johnson Space Center as a flight surgeon and has helped with ISS launch and landing support.  He is also a member of the USAF and has flown SAR missions with and provided Critical Care Air Transport for the 129th Rescue Squadron in Afghanistan.

Dr. Cameron Decker acted as field Physician for the Chase 3 helicopter during field operations.  He currently works as Medical Director for the Harris County Emergency Corps and as an Attending Emergency Medicine Physician at Ben Taub General Hospital.  He is also a Sergeant and Tactical Physician for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. 

Sean Norton is a Special Operations Rescue Paramedic with Travis County in Austin, Texas. During StratEx Sean staffed the Chase 2 truck to provide medical care as needed to the pilot and support crew involved in the project. Sean was also active in emergency response planning and coordination for the medical team and was the flight line Paramedic during operations. Sean worked as a Rescue and Safety Diver at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Training Facility and is part of the FEMA Task Force 1 USAR team as a Water Rescue Specialist.

Dr. Jonathan Clark

Dr. Clark’s advisory role on the Paragon StratEx team was to educate the team on the risks and protocols of high altitude diving as well as offer his expertise in neurological effects of extreme environments. Dr. Jonathan Clark is a six-time Space Shuttle crew surgeon, assistant professor of Neurology and Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and teacher at BCM's Center for Space Medicine. He is also a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and serves as the space medicine advisor for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) at Baylor College of Medicine.

Julian Nott

Julian Nott is a founder of the modern ballooning movement and one of its greatest, most creative exponents. 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.

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, Inda. 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, Meteorologist, DayWeather, Inc.

Day provided expert weather prediction, winds prediction and trajectory estimation based on winds aloft. DayWeather Inc., 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 forensice meteorology.

Aerowestern Helicopters, LLC

Aerowestern provided helicopter support of chase and tracking teams on the program. Aerowestern is a newly formed company offering turbine helicopter services include Aerial Survey, Game Capture, Powerline Survey, Pipeline Survey & Seeding, and light construction lift support with a Bell Longranger and two Bell Jetrangers. Each aircraft is maintained under FAR Part 135 standards. Aerowestern brings 27+ years of accident and incident free flying to customers in NM, AZ & TX.

Win Aviation

Win provided fixed-wing support of safety/support skydiver. Win Aviation is a results oriented, global remarketing, acquisition and maintenance firm located in Dekalb, IL at Taylor Municipal Airport. Win is a global operation with agents in over ten countries including Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa. Win specializes in finding those hard-to-get aircraft and parts, new or used, successfully bringing together buyers and sellers of commercial and private aircraft.

David Jourdan
Nauticos, LLC

David Jourdan was the chase and recovery team coordinator for StratEx. Nauticos Corporation was founded in September 1986 and provides ocean technology services to government, science and industry. In 1995, Nauticos Corporation received international recognition for its participation in the discovery of the I-52, an historic World War II deep-water shipwreck of a Japanese submarine found at a depth of 17,000 feet. After this discovery, Nauticos Corporation began its expansion into ocean exploration and discovery. In 1998, Nauticos Corporation managed the operations for Titanic Live, a live broadcast from the bottom of the ocean, for the Discovery Channel and NBC’s Dateline.

Jerry Kolber
Atomic Entertainment

Atomic Entertainment is a full services production company that provided documentary filming and editing. Atomic produces highly engaging film and television projects that make you laugh, nod your head and think. They combine the best of television, the internet, and good old-fashioned storytelling - and a dash of secret sauce of psychology and game mechanics - to create projects that are as much fun as they are inspiring.

World View® Enterprises, Inc.

World View’s Chief Technology Officer, Taber MacCallum of World View, served as the StratEx Safety Officer, working with the team to ensure Eustace’s wellbeing. World View is a commercial balloon spaceflight company, pioneering a new frontier at the edge of space. Their vision is to take Voyagers (be they private individuals or those traveling for research, educational or other scientific pursuits) on the journey of a lifetime while providing a new perspective on the world we live in and open up new realms of possibility.

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 America Inc., LLC; Ft. Worth MIDO; Lubbock FSDO; Albuquerque ARTCC; Ft. Worth ARTCC; CSA Service Center; and FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

The Experience

Alan’s flight began around dawn. His day began much earlier, starting with a four-hour oxygen pre-breath phase to wash nitrogen from his body.

In fact, the whole team’s day began around midnight. During this phase, the launch team is busy going through a "Phase 0" checkout and preparation of the spacesuit and other systems. The suit and life support system is powered up and all systems were checked for proper operation. They prepared the balloon launch location by laying out protective tarps so the balloon wasn’t damaged by the flight line concrete ramps and so all equipment is positioned relative to the predicted wind. . The balloon equipment module, containing the balloon avionics and the release controls for Alan, was powered up and systems were checked out and transported to the flight line. Mission control coordinated all events while also briefing the helicopter pilots, fixed wing pilots, and the chase and recovery teams on the predicted trajectory. Alan donned the suit and the checkout of all systems within the suit was completed. When given the go-ahead by mission control, Alan was transported out to the flight line to be ready for launch. Again, mission control gave the go-ahead, when they were as sure as possible that wind and weather conditions were going to be safe for launch and all systems were "go", to inflate the balloon. Once the balloon was inflated and stable, secured by a specially designed launch plate, Alan was attached to an instrument module below the base of the balloon and quickly launched.

Ascending at about 1,000 feet per minute, Alan achieved his target altitude in about two and a half hours. He spent a short time, around a half hour, experiencing the wonders of the stratosphere before being released from the balloon. In rapid free fall, Alan experienced a short period of near weightlessness and within 90 seconds exceeded the speed of sound. Stabilized by a small drogue chute, he continued to free fall into thickening atmosphere for about five minutes. Slowing to a much more modest speed, he deployed his parachute at around 18,000 feet and floated gently to the ground. The descent under canopy took approximately fifteen minutes.

Moments after he was on the ground, chase vehicles led by a helicopter arrived at his position. A ground team helped him remove his heavy suit with integrated life support, and returned him to the launch site. Medical personnel stood by.

Within four hours of launch, Alan arrived at the launch site where the team and guests toasted his achievement and safe return.

The Technology

Paragon Space Development is the prime contractor for the StratEx. They have worked with Alan to develop the design, build the life support system, manage the system development, and conduct operations.

The Suit

Humans cannot live at that altitude, above 99.8% of the atmosphere. Besides being unable to breath, exposure to the vacuum of space will cause fluids in the body to boil. To survive, one must wear a spacesuit and be connected to a life support system with the same requirements for stepping out of the space station or walking on the moon. This space suit is similar to those used for Apollo and very similar to those used on the International Space Station.

The Parachute

The landing was under a fully maneuverable rectangular parachute, similar in size and design to tandem parachutes used for sport, along with an emergency chute. Neither parachute can be opened from the ground. Landings were similar to normal parachute landings of tandem jumpers, with technique modifications given the front-mounted life support system.

When released from the balloon, the initial free fall was stabilized by a small drogue chute. The main chute opened at around 13,000 feet allowing for a controlled descent to a gentle landing.

The Balloon

Scientific balloons usually come in standard sizes, the biggest ever flown being 60 million cubic feet and standing an astonishing 900 feet high at launch. This 11 million cubic foot balloon stood almost 400 feet high at launch and, at maximum altitude, is 275 feet across. Even though Alan’s balloon held 11 million cubic feet at the maximum altitude it only contained about 30 thousand cubic feet at launch. Of course it expanded enormously as the balloon rose and air pressure lowered. The balloon was inflated by two long lightweight fill tubes attached at one end to the top of the envelope, and the other to hoses and diffusers feed from a tanker truck filled with helium.

The Launch System

The unique stratospheric-visit, balloon-assisted launch system was designed to allow for a payload (human or otherwise) to be launched using a controlled,tethered launch system. The system allowed for the balloon to be gradually "stood up" until at full height. The system allows for the lift of the balloon to be measured, the balloon to be inspected, and the pilot to be wheeled under the balloon and balloon flight equipment module for attachment. Lift-off is then done by releasing the system.


Alan has been training with weights to improve his strength to better handle the rigors of the jump. He is an experienced multi-engine jet pilot and an experienced skydiver. He has been continuing jump training with an advanced instructor, including tandem-jump training. He has also worn his suit and simulated equipment in vertical wind tunnel tests and during airplane jumps. He has conducted two jumps from lower altitude balloon tests with all equipment before this final high-altitude jump.

The Future


The StratEx program is designed to inspire and expand the boundaries of our potential, challenge ourselves with new innovations and continue to push the limits and possibilities of our future.


Together, we will work to broaden our understanding and solve some of the mysteries of our stratosphere.


As humanity’s interests in space exploration expand, programs like StratEx help address fundamental questions and identify new challenges and opportunities. Do you have a challenging question or opportunity you want to explore? Then contact Paragon. We have a proven track record in solving hard problems for our customers.

Roswell, New Mexico

The Location

Roswell is a city in the southeastern quarter of the state of New Mexico. In 2012, the population of Roswell was around 48,000, making it the 5th largest city in New Mexico. It is a center for irrigation farming, dairying, ranching, manufacturing, distribution, and petroleum production.

Roswell is most popularly known for having its name attached to what is now called the 1947 Roswell UFO incident, even though the crash site of the alleged UFO was some 75 miles from Roswell and closer to Corona.

Space related industry:

The Gallery

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