Emergency medical support for a manned stratospheric balloon test program

Rebecca S. Blue, Sean C. Norton, Jennifer Law, James M. Pattarini, Erik L. Antonsen, Alejandro Garbino, Jonathan B. Clark, Matthew W. Turney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Introduction Red Bull Stratos was a commercial program that brought a test parachutist, protected by a full-pressure suit, in a stratospheric balloon with pressurized capsule to over 127,582 ft (38,969 m), from which he free fell and subsequently parachuted to the ground. Given that the major risks to the parachutist included ebullism, negative Gz (toe-to-head) acceleration exposure from an uncontrolled flat spin, and trauma, a comprehensive plan was developed to recover the parachutist under nominal conditions and to respond to any medical contingencies that might have arisen. In this report, the project medical team describes the experience of providing emergency medical support and crew recovery for the manned balloon flights of the program. Methods The phases of flight, associated risks, and available resources were systematically evaluated. Results Six distinct phases of flight from an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) standpoint were identified. A Medical Support Plan was developed to address the risks associated with each phase, encompassing personnel, equipment, procedures, and communications. Discussion Despite geographical, communications, and resource limitations, the medical team was able to implement the Medical Support Plan, enabling multiple successful manned balloon flights to 71,615 ft (21,828 m), 97,221 ft (29,610 m), and 127,582 ft (38,969 m). The experience allowed refinement of the EMS and crew recovery procedures for each successive flight and could be applied to other high altitude or commercial space ventures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)532-537
Number of pages6
JournalPrehospital and Disaster Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 4 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Red Bull Stratos
  • field medical support
  • free fall
  • high altitude
  • medical protocol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency


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