San Antonio had role in historic jump from space

Red Bull Stratos team tested Felix Baum­gartner’s capsule at Brooks City Base

SAN ANTONIO - Before Felix Baumgartner jumped into the history books from the edge of space, he and his team came to San Antonio to make sure the stunt could be done safely.

"They needed to get to a high altitude and a cold temperature," said Bill Ercoline, the San Antonio area manager for Wyle a leading provider of specialized engineering, scientific and technical services. "We could provide them with probably about as realistic a situation as you would find anywhere."

Ercoline said an altitude chamber at Brooks City Base, originally built to train fighter pilots and the first astronauts, was used to create the same conditions Baumgartner and his capsule would experience at the edge of space.

For a week in November 2011 the team ran through a series full dress rehearsals in the chamber.

"It was to test the integrity of the capsule and to allow them to practice their procedures," Ercoline said. "Letting Felix work the switches in the atmospheric conditions that he'd experience as he goes up because the temperature would start to make everything cold."

The tests went well and the Red Bull Stratos team began doing test jumps from lower altitudes in New Mexico. During one of the final test jumps, the capsule was damaged after a hard landing. It was sent back to Brooks for more testing after repairs.

"The capsule suffered a hard landing and we wanted to make certain that the structure and integrity of the capsule was not damaged and the only way to do it was to bring it here to Brooks," said Joe Kittinger, the previous record holder who served as the primary point of radio contact with Baumgartner during the ascent and jump.

The tests were performed at the end of September and the capsule was given the thumbs up for the record breaking stunt.

This wasn't the first time the Brooks City Base facility has helped make history. One day before he was assassinated in Dallas, President John F. Kennedy dedicated the buildings as part of the mission to the moon. Nearly 50 years later, they're still making history .

"That's the irony of it all is that's what it was used for and we were able to help in a small way get somebody up the edge of space," Ercoline said.

While they aren't getting a lot of attention for their role in Baumgartner's jump Ercoline said everyone involved was proud to help.

"Everything worked well," Ercoline said. "Nobody was hurt and we may have even learned some interesting things from this."

IMAGES: Ercoline's space history

For a list of recent stories Tim Gerber has done, click here


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