Overview of medical operations for a manned stratospheric balloon flight

Aviat Space Environ Med. 2013 Mar;84(3):237-41. doi: 10.3357/asem.3537.2013.


Introduction: Red Bull Stratos was a commercial program designed to bring a test parachutist protected by a full-pressure suit via a stratospheric balloon with a pressurized capsule to 120,000 ft (36,576 m), from which he would freefall and subsequently parachute to the ground. On March 15, 2012, the Red Bull Stratos program successfully conducted a preliminary manned balloon test flight and parachute jump, reaching a final altitude of 71,581 ft (21,818 m). In light of the uniqueness of the operation and medical threats faced, a comprehensive medical plan was needed to ensure prompt and efficient response to any medical contingencies. This report will serve to discuss the medical plans put into place before the first manned balloon flight and the actions of the medical team during that flight.

Methods: The medical operations developed for this program will be systematically evaluated, particularly, specific recommendations for improvement in future high-altitude and commercial space activities.

Results: A multipronged approach to medical support was developed, consisting of event planning, medical personnel, equipment, contingency-specific considerations, and communications.

Discussion: Medical operations were found to be highly successful when field-tested during this stratospheric flight, and the experience allowed for refinement of medical operations for future flights. The lessons learned and practices established for this program can easily be used to tailor a plan specific to other aviation or spaceflight events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerospace Medicine*
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / organization & administration*
  • Communication
  • Emergency Medical Services / organization & administration*
  • Gravity Suits
  • Humans