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AV Skydives with Felix Baumgartner, Part 2

Dec 20, 2012 3:28 PM, With Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

When Fearless Felix Baumgartner made his 128,000ft. leap, the whole world was watching and listening thanks to the video and sound links by Riedel Communications. Coordinating the comm links for the ground crew was a huge job and Matthias Leister is back to take us inside the operation on the supersonic skydive, up next on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Matthias Leister, thanks for being back with us for part two on the SVC Podcast from Riedel coming to us all the way from Germany and we’re talking about the Red Bull Stratos supersonic skydive. For the communications system on the ground, how many radio receivers and communication channels were there? There was a lot going on, on the ground to support this.

Matthias Leister: Yeah, definitely, the overall team was I believe about 300 people. Almost every second had its own radio, so providing communication for these different groups meant to us providing 150 digital radios and about 14 channels provided for these several groups. [Timestamp: 1:28]

Now with all these people using all this gear you had to make sure they all knew how to operate it correctly. I know there were rehearsals and simulations and your guys were standing by to help with that, but I guess the Red Bull flight team took to it pretty well though.

Yeah it worked out pretty well. The whole really complex system for us was mission control. A mission control system in that kind, I believe, was not established from Reidel before since this new experience, with all these guys that were previously working for companies or organizations like the NASA, like the Air Force or other space projects, that was a kind of really new experience for us as well as for those people using our Artist intercom panel with 30 panels installed on missions control. So that was a nice new experience and of course there was some training necessary to meet the demands the people in mission control needed and of course for us [the] new experience of seeing how such mission control communication works. [Timestamp: 2:33]

And you have the benefit of the experience of how NASA always does it and they always have a private channel available from the vehicle to the ground that’s behind the scenes and not fed to the press. Did the Red Bull flight team have an intercom back channel between Felix and Kittinger like this?

Yes, of course. We also used a separate channel for a safe communication between Felix and a closer group in mission control. That was John Clark as well as Joe Kittinger in mission control. Nevertheless, during the mission or during all manned missions, we didn’t need it, this private channel, so we were lucky to provide all the communication to the OB truck. [Timestamp: 3:14]

Always one of those things where you’re glad you have it but don’t end up needing it. Let’s talk about some of your actual gear. How was the whole communications system tied together? That was the Riedel Artist Digital Matrix intercom system, right?

Exactly. We had a system of two digital Artist mainframes, both in the 32 frame size. One of them was located inside mission control to provide the communication there with over 30 intercom panels. The other Matrix were used in our Reidel office on the compound. That was for two reasons. One was providing the interface to the OB truck’s intercom and the second was providing intercom panels inside every, of the about 12 offices on the compound. So every office if it’s the medical, the edit office, offices from Sage Cheshire as such—every one of these offices had a special or their own intercom panel to on one hand gain latest information from mission control and on the other side are able to report back for any instance. [Timestamp: 4:23]

I know the Riedel system is pretty flexible in the way that you can set it up. Different network topologies can be used and mixed. How was the topology set up for this event to be as reliable as possible in the event of a node failure?

Yeah, our basic backbone on this event was Riedel MediorNet audio and video network that we established. That MediorNet network provided all the video and all the audio feeds as well as communication passes for our Artist Digital intercom on the whole compound. The topology that we used there was a dual fiber ring around this whole compound, so whenever we had a failure in this single link, we had the ring plus a redundant path on the same route, so the system was very redundant for that mission. [Timestamp: 5:14]

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