Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner today broke the sound barrier during his jump from the edge of space, but he did not set a new record for the longest freefall, a mission spokesperson said.

The 43-year-old Austrian achieved the fastest ever freefall speed at 1,137 kilometres per hour during the 4 minutes and 19 seconds of descent from an altitude of 128,097 feet, said spokeswoman Sarah Anderson.

He was bidding to break records set over 50 years ago by Joseph Kittinger, now a retired US Air Force Colonel who made a freefall jump from 31,333 meters in 1960. Kittinger was part of Baumgartner’s backup team.

Citing preliminary figures, she said the whole jump lasted nine minutes and three seconds, including 4 minutes and 44 seconds after he deployed his parachute to float down to earth in the New Mexico desert.

Baumgartner had hoped to be in freefall for more than five minutes before opening his chute, and had also expected to jump from a lower altitude - 120,000 feet.

The reason for the shorter than expected freefall was not immediately clear, although live commentary during the unprecedented leap suggested he opened his parachute at an altitude above the 5,000 feet level announced in advance.

(This article was published on October 15, 2012)
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