A lawsuit on Earth has grounded plans by Red Bull energy drink to send an Austrian daredevil into the stratosphere in an attempt to break the record for the highest skydive.
The Red Bull Stratos mission was slated to kick off some time this year and fly skydiver Felix Baumgartner to 120,000 feet (36,576 meters) on a balloon, then ride along with cameras as he plunged back to Earth at supersonic speeds.
The idea was to break the record set 50 years ago by retired U.S. Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger, who as a captain set the world's skydiving bar at 102,800 feet (31,333 meters) on Aug. 16, 1960.
But a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Red Bull by California promoter Daniel Hogan has stalled the project indefinitely.
In a complaint filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Hogan claims that the idea for the high-altitude skydive was originally his, and that Red Bull passed on the concept when he pitched it to the company in 2004, according to Courthouse News.
Red Bull officials called off the Red Bull Stratos project this week because of the lawsuit, which has been ongoing for months.
"Despite the fact that many other people over the past 50 years have tried to break Colonel (Ret.) Joe Kittinger's record, and that other individuals have sought to work with Red Bull in an attempt to break his record, Mr. Hogan claims to own certain rights to the project and filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit earlier this year in a Californian court," Red Bull officials said on Oct. 12. "Due to the lawsuit, we have decided to stop the project until this case has been resolved."
According to Courthouse News, Hogan says in his lawsuit that he pitched Red Bull an idea for a so-called "space dive" that would send a skydiver up to 130,000 feet (39,624 meters).
Hogan reportedly lined up Lindstrand Technologies to build the balloon and pressure capsule, as well as a Russian company to design the skydiver's protective suit. A NASA flight surgeon rounded out the team, the lawsuit states.
"Red Bull never acknowledged the plaintiff's role on Red Bull Stratos," the lawsuit says.
In their Oct. 12 statement, Red Bull officials defended the company's past relationship with Hogan.
"Red Bull has acted appropriately in its prior dealings with Mr. Hogan, and will demonstrate this as the case progresses," company officials said.
Baumgartner had planned to ride a custom-built pressurized capsule carried by a giant helium balloon to his jump height. Red Bull developed a sophisticated set of cameras for the skydiver to wear during his descent.
The trip down to Earth was expected to take about six minutes, with Baumgartner deploying his parachute about a mile above the ground. [Graphic: Earth's Atmosphere From Top to Bottom]
In August, Baumgartner met with astronaut Neil Armstrong — the first human to walk on the moon — and cosmonaut Alexi Alexei Leonov, the first person to walk in space, during an event for Armstrong's 80th birthday.
"I find it interesting that we have four fliers here, all of which are better known for getting out of something than for flying it," Armstrong said in a statement at the time. "We can't all stay inside flying machines."
This article was reprinted with permission from SPACE.com.
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