Stratosphere skydiver sets PB

20:50, Jul 25 2012

Skydiver "Fearless Felix" Baumgartner made his second stratospheric leap Wednesday, this time from more than 29km above the Earth —nearly three times higher than cruising jetliners. 

The Austrian landed safely near Roswell, New Mexico, according to a project spokeswoman. His top speed was an estimated 862kmh, said Brian Utley, an official observer on site.

It's a personal best for Baumgartner, who is aiming for a record-breaking jump from 37km in another month. 

He hopes to go supersonic, breaking the speed of sound with just his body.

"It has always been a dream of mine," Baumgartner said in a statement following Wednesday's feat.

"Only one more step to go."

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Longtime record-holder Joe Kittinger jumped from 31km in 1960 for the Air Force.

The 84-year-old Kittinger monitored Wednesday's jump.

The 43-year-old Baumgartner ascended alone in an enclosed capsule lifted by a giant helium balloon.

He wore a full-pressure suit equipped with parachutes and an oxygen supply. There's virtually no atmosphere that far up.

"It felt completely different at 90,000 feet (27,400 metres)," Baumgartner noted.

"There is no control when you exit the capsule. There is no way to get stable."

He was in free fall for an estimated three minutes and 48 seconds before opening his parachutes. 

Nasa is paying close attention to the project called Stratos, short for stratosphere.

The US space agency wants to learn all it can about potential escape systems for future rocket ships.

Baumgartner won't come close to space, even on the ultimate jump that's planned for late August or early September. Space officially begins at 100km.

Baumgartner, a former military parachutist and extreme athlete, has jumped more than 2500 times from planes and helicopters, as well as from skyscrapers and landmarks, including the 101-story Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

Below: Video of an earlier jump by Baugmartner, March 2012.

AP