Super Fly Guy Felix gives Red Bull its Wings
Ten days ago, Red Bull Stratos’s five year mission culminated in a successful launch. Felix Baumgartner jumped 24 miles to Earth breaking the speed of sound in free fall before parachuting to the ground. He broke three world records with that one amazing jump.
From a social media perspective, Red Bull broke all known records too: 8 million concurrent people watching the live stream around the globe, 900,000 interactions on October 14th alone on the Red Bull Stratos Facebook Page and over 20,000 mentions of @redbullstratos on Sunday and Monday (Source: Socialbakers).
Many have also tried to estimate the company’s worth after the jump. That is a difficult endeavour (though less dangerous than jumping from space), since Red Bull is a privately held company and very reserved about their financial records. The Telegraph reported that, according to David Haigh, chief executive at Brand Finance, Red Bull is worth at least £5bn now. It will definitely be interesting to see Red Bull’s financial records at the end of the next tax year.
However, my geeky side wanted to remind you all of what I consider a greater success: Red Bull’s contribution to science and its trickle-down effects on the aeronautics and medical industry.
Until Sunday the 14th of October, the scientific community did not know for sure what would happen to a human falling to Earth faster than the speed of sound. The speed of sound is affected by temperature. At 20 °C, the speed of sound is 343.2 metres per second. This is 1,768 mph, or about one kilometre in three seconds or approximately one mile in five seconds! At about 23 miles above sea level, Felix Baumgartner had to go 690 miles per hour to match the speed of sound. On October 14th, Felix reached an estimated speed of 833.9 mph, surpassing the speed of sound. He went supersonic!
Not only did Red Bull prove that it is possible for a human to survive a supersonic jump, but scientists, engineers and experts in aerospace medicine learned a great deal about high altitude and acceleration on the human body, spacesuits, GPS and other equipment, and have developed new protocols for escape and safety systems for crew and space passengers.
A great number of industries will benefit from this incredible success.
While the financial implications are difficult to analyse, it could become an interesting longitudinal study. New developments were made during the past five years by the Red Bull Stratos team in cameras, communication systems, parachutes, pressure suits, backup safety systems and medical treatments and these developments can only be improved.
Red Bull has shown that supporting science is not just exciting; it can be very lucrative.
Claire Emes is head of Ipsos MORI Digital. Gabriela Mancero is a social research project manager at Ipsos MORI.