When Felix Baumgartner dove out of a capsule head first at the edge of space over 24 miles above Earth, he didn’t just have technology helping him break the world record, he had science on his side.
Those simulations can look like these from SolidWorks, using sophisticated software that not only takes into account all the mathematical probabilities of a jump that high, but also show, in vivid detail, the physics and the physical forces that are working on his body as he plummets earthward. Using these simulations before his jump proves why Felix had to stay in a head down position in order to break the sound barrier.
The full article by Dr. Stephen Endersby from SolidWorks gives all the math and equations involved, but the basic problem was which would come first, the sound barrier or terminal velocity? Taking the opposing forces on Felix’s body — the accelerating force vs. the retarding drag — Dr. Endersby found that at 25 seconds of free fall from a height of 120,000 feet, Felix would still be accelerating. Read more.