Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Anthony N. Palazotto, PhD.


The research detailed in this study investigates an internal vacuum as well as its optimal structural design, utilizing currently available materials, as an alternative to traditional gases to create and sustain buoyancy in lighter than air vehicles. To date, the consideration of a vacuum lighter than air vehicle has been limited to three sources of literature, the earliest of which dates back to 1663. This study will initially summarize and review this literature. We will then combine finite element analysis, dimensional analysis, design of experiments, and response surface methodology studies to explore the feasibility, and the functional design of a vacuum lighter than air vehicle constrained by modern technology and materials. The process developed herein allows a designer to perform a broad scope initial structural response design space investigation based on user defined constraints to determine if and where structurally feasible regions or points lie. This research then specifically analyzes two cylindrical pultruded rod geometric frame designs with membrane skins stretched over the top vacuum lighter than air vehicle designs. The first being an icosahedron frame and skin structure proposed by Metlen at the Air Force Institute of Technology.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number