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Optical Design & Engineering

The Optical Mission Behind the Stratos Project

A plenary talk from SPIE Optics + Photonics 2013.

11 September 2013, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201309.16

The recent Red Bull Stratos Project enabled Felix Baumgartner to skydive from 127,852 feet, breaking a number of world records, and also become the first person to break the sound barrier in free fall. This incredible example of human achievement was documented by a group of optical imaging scientists who worked for over four years to develop and test the necessary systems and equipment. This monumental leap was captured by 35 cameras to provide a full picture of what this endeavor means for the future of scientific exploration.

Joseph B. Houston of Houston Research Associates (USA), Dennis Fisher of Genesis Applied Imaging, Inc (USA), and Jay Nemeth of Flight Line Films (USA) present an insider's look into this project in the plenary talk, "The Optical Mission Behind the Stratos Project," which covers Stratos' goals, challenges, and lessons learned.

Joseph B. Houston, Houston Research AssociatesJoe Houston, past president and fellow of SPIE, has been a pioneer in telescope design, fabrication and testing for the past 52 years. A former military skydiver, helicopter pilot, and certified flight instructor for single and multi-engine aircraft, he completed ten years of military service as a designated Senior Army Aviator and attained the rank of Captain in the U. S. Army.

Dennis Fisher, Genesis Applied Imaging, Inc.Dennis Fisher has over 40 Years of experience as a still photographer, cinematographer, and range optics manager/engineer. He serves as the FlightLine Films tracking supervisor on JLAIR operations involving missile and rocket launches as well as high performance aircraft tracking.


Jay Nemeth, Flight Line Films Jay Nemeth has worked as an aerial cinematographer since 1984, using various airborne camera systems to produce images for feature films, commercials, and documentaries. Jay also designs camera systems for full-pressure suits and for optical tracking of aircraft and launch vehicles from a ground based system using large telescopes.