Stratospheric Flight

Aeronautics at the Limit

  • Andras Sóbester

Part of the Springer Praxis Books book series (PRAXIS)

Also part of the Popular Science book sub series (POPS)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages I-XXIV
  2. In a hostile environment

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. András Sóbester
      Pages 3-25
    3. András Sóbester
      Pages 27-52
  3. New heights of flight

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 53-53
    2. András Sóbester
      Pages 55-74
    3. András Sóbester
      Pages 75-93
    4. András Sóbester
      Pages 95-109
  4. ‘Above the weather’

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 111-111
    2. András Sóbester
      Pages 113-121
    3. András Sóbester
      Pages 123-130
    4. András Sóbester
      Pages 131-157
    5. András Sóbester
      Pages 159-166
  5. Where next?

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 167-167
    2. András Sóbester
      Pages 169-189
  6. Appendices

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 191-191
    2. András Sóbester
      Pages 193-198
    3. András Sóbester
      Pages 199-206
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 207-215

About this book


The stratosphere is the highest layer of Earth's atmosphere where aircraft can still fly. The density of the air is just high enough here to generate lift on a wing or buoyancy on a balloon, so designing any stratospheric aircraft is a delicate technological balancing act for the engineer. Designing and operating an aircraft capable of conveying humans to the stratosphere is more challenging still: biologically, we simply do not belong up there. Temperatures often as low as -80C (-112F) and an ambient pressure rapidly diminishing with altitude make for an extremely forbidding environment. In fact, as we pass 50 000 feet (the lower end of Concorde's cruising altitude range), we enter the space equivalent zone - from a physiological point of view we might as well be in low Earth orbit.


The fact that stratospheric flight is possible at all - moreover, even safe and economical, at least in the lower stratosphere - is made possible by some relatively recent advances in our understanding of the science of high altitude flight. This book charts some of these developments; at the same time, it is a catalog of ways in which the stratosphere can catch out even the well-prepared flyer. Naturally, the failures of early explorers have signposted many of these dangers, but, as regular news headlines and the series of vignettes that punctuate the book illustrate, the learning curve has not levelled off, it has merely become shallower. Stratospheric flight is still aviation at the limit.


Stratospheric flight airplane disasters airplane travel aviation milestones balloon flight commerical suborbital flights high altitude passenger transport stratospheric airliner

Authors and affiliations

  • Andras Sóbester
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Engineering Sciences, Computational Engin. & Design Ctr. CEDCUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUnited Kingdom

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011
  • Publisher Name Springer, New York, NY
  • eBook Packages Engineering
  • Print ISBN 978-1-4419-9457-8
  • Online ISBN 978-1-4419-9458-5
  • Buy this book on publisher's site