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Emergency Medical Support for a Manned Stratospheric Balloon Test Program

  • Rebecca S. Blue (a1), Sean C. Norton (a2), Jennifer Law (a3), James M. Pattarini (a1), Erik L. Antonsen (a4), Alejandro Garbino (a4), Jonathan B. Clark (a5) and Matthew W. Turney (a6)...



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.


The phases of flight, associated risks, and available resources were systematically evaluated.


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.


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.

BlueRS, NortonSC, LawJ, PattariniJM, AntonsenEL, GarbinoA, ClarkJB, TurneyMW. Emergency Medical Support for a Manned Stratospheric Balloon Test Program. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2014;29(5):1-6.


Corresponding author

Correspondence: Rebecca S. Blue, MD, MPH Preventive Medicine and Community Health University of Texas Medical Branch 301 University Blvd Galveston, Texas 77555-1110 USA E-mail


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