Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Anthony N. Palazotto, PhD.


The concept that a structure is capable of producing buoyancy using an internal vacuum rather than a gas dates back to the 1600s; but material technology has restricted the construction of such concept for common geometries, such as the sphere. Different and often complex geometries compensate for the lack of light materials that provide the stiffness and strength needed. Therefore, this research looks at an Lighter than Air Vehicle (LTAV) in the form of an icosahedral frame/skin configuration using nonlinear finite element analysis in order to determine the structural response of such vehicle, its capacity to sustain a vacuum with both material technology that exists today and in the near future, and its buoyancy characteristics. The structural response is characterized with large displacements; where membrane behavior dominates the icosahedral skin response, generating geometric stiffening in the overall structure. It is shown that those displacements have minimal effect in the structures buoyancy, with no more than 4% reduction. Overall, the nonlinear analysis of the icosahedral structure provided tangible background on its behavior and the LTAV applicability. It is feasibly possible to actually manufacture this type of vehicle in the very near future depending upon newer materials with more advanced strength.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number