Falling faster: The surprising leap of Felix Baumgartner

Scientists investigate the aerodynamics of irregularly shaped bodies at extreme speeds.


Almost before 5 years,  the Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner had a record in 2012 for breaking the sound barrier during his free fall from an altitude of almost 39 kilometers. It was the 1st time, a human being had broken the sound barrier while in free fall. Now scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have analyzed the fluid dynamics that he used in very decent manner.

Scientists have recognized Baumgartner’s record leap as a unique opportunity to study how an irregularly shaped object falls.

Prof. Ulrich Walter, head of the TUM Chair for Astronautics said, “Our calculations, based on the fluid dynamics of a smooth body, indicated that Baumgartner would need to jump from an altitude of about 37 kilometers in order to break through the sound barrier, i.e. to fall faster than Mach 1 or about 1200 kilometers per hour. But in reality, Baumgartner reached a much higher speed of Mach 1.25.”

Be that as it may, how could an athlete equipped with a defensive suit and a knapsack fall speedier than asymmetrically molded protest with a smooth surface? Utilizing information gathered for instance on-air weight, temperature, Baumgartner’s speed and his position in space at each point in time amid the bounce, out of the blue it was conceivable to research the streamlined features of unpredictably formed bodies at outrageous paces.

Computing fluid dynamics in the transonic range near the sound wall isn’t too simple since various distinctive physical wonders cover here: At speeds between Mach 0.7 and 1.3 the stream of air around a moving article is never again versatile, yet rather air responds solidly: Shock waves frame, bringing about turbulence.

Thus this turbulence retains vitality, prompting an expansion in streamlined drag at speeds near the speed of sound. Alternately, under certain stream conditions surface abnormalities can decrease streamlined drag: Just as a golf ball with little dimples on its surface flies better, a body in free-fall can be speedier on the off chance that it doesn’t have a smooth surface.

In a hypothetical investigation, Walter initially settled the numerical reason for ascertaining the stream protection of discretionary formed bodies specifically from measured information. With this and from the deliberate esteems from Baumgartner’s record hop the drag coefficient and the streamlined features could be driven.

Markus Gürster, the aviation and astronautics engineer said, “We consolidated data from various sources in a variety of different formats – some of the data consisted of measured values, but we had to extract some of the information from videos.”

“The results really surprised us. While the drag coefficient of a smooth cube increases continuously from Mach 0.6 to Mach 1.1, according to our results, the coefficient remained almost unchanged during Baumgartner’s flight – that means the sound barrier hardly generated any additional drag at all.”

Walter said, “The investigation shows that any variety of dents, wrinkles, and irregularities on the surface significantly decrease aerodynamic drag at transonic speeds. Irregularly formed surfaces mean higher speed: Compared with smooth objects, their drag coefficient and thus also their aerodynamic drag is cut almost in half.”

“These calculations are still purely fundamental research, but adds that if for example, the cruising speed of aircraft continues to rise, the results may be useful one day. If you’re trying to approach the speed of sound, dents and bumps can actually be very useful.”

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