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Felix Baumgartner's Space Suit Has Calgary Connection

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Calgary native Shane Jacobs was the lead of a team of 50 that helped design Felix Baumgartner's free-fall space suit. become the first skydiver to break the sound barrier. (AP Photo/Red Bull Stratos, Luke Aikins) | AP

The near-space suit worn by Felix Baumgartner last weekend in his record-breaking free-fall has a Calgary connection.

Calgary native Shane Jacobs, who grew up in the community of Lake Bonavista, was the lead in a group of 50 people that developed the 14 kilogram suit worn by Baumgartner when he plunged from a capsule at an altitude of 39,000 metres last Sunday.

While attending Bishop Carroll High School, Jacobs was inspired by a handful of math and science teachers who allowed him to work independently, an interview with the Calgary Herald reveals.

While he was earning a mechanical engineering degree at McGill University Jacobs would return home to Calgary, finding summer work developing running shoe technology at the University of Calgary.

"I guess I did always love physics, and learning about how everything around me actually worked. It was fascinating stuff," he told the Herald.

Jacobs then went on to complete his PhD in aerospace engineering at the University of Maryland before landing a job with David Clark Company, a Massachusetts-based firm that specializes in air and space crew equipment design.

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Felix Baumgartner's Record-Setting Skydive Attempt
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According to the CBC, Jacobs spent three years developing the suit.

"This is a very unique challenge and there's a lot of unique requirements for this suit," Jacobs told the CBC.

"It protects him from a lot of perils of high-altitude ... it's really the state-of-the-art of pressure technology."


"A flat spin ... could create G-forces that make you go unconscious," Jacobs told the CBC.

"When he's jumping from such high altitude, even though he's a very experienced skydiver and he knows how to position his body when he normally skydives from low altitudes, the atmosphere is so thin, that there isn't enough atmospheric drag to really push against to control your body."

And, indeed, Baumgartner's ground control team held their breath at one point during the jump when he appeared to lose control, spinning wildly for several seconds before righting himself to proper form.

While David Clark Company declined to share the cost of the suit, they did say that stunt sponsor Red Bull picked up the tab.


Baumgartner's Space Suit Facts
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