Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Space Systems


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Richard G. Cobb, PhD


The near-space region of earth's atmosphere above 20 kilometers altitude is greatly underutilized. Lighter-than-air maneuvering vehicles, or airships, using the principle of buoyancy can take advantage of this region to become potential platforms for precision navigation, environmental monitoring, communication relays, missile warning, surveillance, and weapon delivery. These vehicles purportedly provide persistent coverage over large areas of the earth's surface at substantially lower costs than orbiting satellites. This study investigated the technical requirements to loiter an operational payload within this high altitude region using a lighter-than-air maneuvering platform. A parametric analysis was conducted to identify the critical technologies needed to achieve operational payload, power, altitude, and stationkeeping requirements. The research concluded feasibility of stationkeeping a 1000 kg payload in lower near-space (20-25 km) using current airship technologies. Solar powered electric propellers provided the best overall near-space loiter capability for missions beyond 30 days. Additional loiter capability can be attained for shorter missions using fuel cell technologies. Technology improvements in the airship's drag coefficient, envelope fabric density, and payload mass and power requirements are required to attain altitudes beyond 25 km.

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DTIC Accession Number