* Launch now targeted for 1:30 p.m. EDT (1730 GMT
* Stunt would break altitude record and the sound barrier
* Fragile balloon cannot handle strong winds
(Adds new target time for launch, details)
By Irene Klotz
Oct 9 (Reuters) - Plans for an Austrian daredevil to skydivefrom a balloon 23 miles (37 km) over the New Mexico desert wereon hold on Tuesday due to winds, but his team said thedeath-defying stunt could still happen later in the day.
Felix Baumgartner, a 43-year-old helicopter pilot, hot-airballoonist and professional skydiver, would break a longstandingaltitude record and the sound barrier if the jump goes forward.
Weather will be key. Baumgartner's team issued a statementsaying the launch of the massive but fragile helium balloon thatwould carry him to an altitude of 120,000 feet (36,576 meters)above Roswell, New Mexico, had been reschueduled for 1:30 p.m.EDT (1730 GMT).
The launch, originally scheduled for around 9 a.m. EDT (1300GMT), was delayed by winds between about 700 feet (213 meters)and 800 feet (244 meters) above the launch site, the team said.
"We're on hold, waiting," Sarah Anderson, a spokeswoman forthe team, told Reuters in an e-mail.
If the launch proceeds it would take about 2.5 to 3 hours toreach 120,000 feet.
The 30-million-cubic-foot (850,000-cubic-meter) plasticballoon, which is about one-tenth the thickness of a Ziploc bag,cannot handle winds greater than 6 miles per hour (9.7 km perhour). The balloon will carry a specially made space capsulewhere Baumgartner will spend the ride into the stratosphere.
Baumgartner hopes to break the record of 102,800 feet(31,333 meters) for the highest-altitude freefall, a milestoneset in 1960 by U.S. Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger.
By jumping from 120,000 feet (36,576 meters) Baumgartnerwill also break the sound barrier. With virtually no air tocushion his fall, he is expected to reach the speed of sound,which is 690 mph (1,110 kph) at that altitude, after about 35seconds of freefall.
He will stay supersonic for nearly a minute and shouldfreefall for a total of 5 minutes and 35 seconds.
When Baumgartner jumps from the capsule, the position of hisbody will be crucial, since there is no air for him to movearound in. If he falls in a way that puts him into a rapid spin,Baumgartner could pass out and risk damaging his eyes, brain andcardiovascular system.
Baumgartner's safety gear includes a custom spacesuit toprotect him from the low pressure and the extreme cold.Temperatures are expected to be as low as about minus-70 degreesFahrenheit (minus-57 degrees Celsius.)
The near-vacuum puts him at risk of ebullism, a potentiallylethal condition in which fluids in the body turn to gas and theblood literally boils. Severe lung damage could occur withinminutes.
Helicopters equipped with newly developed instruments totreat lung damage will be standing by during Baumgartner'sskydive.
"What we're doing here is not just a record attempt. It's aflight test program," project adviser Jonathan Clark, a medicaldoctor and former NASA flight surgeon, told reporters during anews conference on Monday.
Among those interested in the spacesuit research arecommercial companies developing spaceships for passenger travel.The research could help people survive a high-altitude accident.
Clark's wife, shuttle Columbia astronaut Laurel Clark, diedalong with six crewmates when the spaceship broke apart overTexas on Feb. 1, 2003, as it headed for a landing in Florida.
(Editing by Tom Brown and Doina Chiacu)
Keywords: USA SPACE/SKYDIVE