Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Space Studies

First Advisor

Ronald A. Fevig


High power rockets and high altitude balloons are two near-space technologies that could be combined in order to provide access to the mesosphere and, eventually, suborbital space. This "rockoon" technology has been used by several large budget space programs before being abandoned in favor of even more expensive, albeit more accurate, ground launch systems. With the increased development of nano-satellites and atmospheric sensors, combined with rising interest in global atmospheric data, there is an increase in desire for affordable access to extreme altitudes that does not necessarily require the precision of ground launches.

Development of hybrid near-space technologies for access to over 200k ft. on a small budget brings many challenges within engineering, systems integration, cost analysis, market analysis, and business planning. This research includes the design and simulation testing of all the systems needed for a safe and reusable launch system, the cost analysis for initial production, the development of a business plan, and the development of a marketing plan. This project has both engineering and scientific significance in that it can prove the space readiness of new technologies, raise their technology readiness levels (TRLs), expedite the development process, and also provide new data to the scientific community. It also has the ability to stimulate university involvement in the aerospace industry and help to inspire the next generation of workers in the space sector.

Previous development of high altitude balloon/high power rocket hybrid systems have been undertaken by government funded military programs or large aerospace corporations with varying degrees of success. However, there has yet to be a successful flight with this type of system which provides access to the upper mesosphere in a university setting. This project will aim to design and analyze a viable system while testing the engineering process under challenging budgetary constraints.

The technical, engineering, and systems integration challenges that will be investigated are rocket design, launch platform design, communications, ignition systems, recovery systems, and stabilization methods. This will be done using rocket performance simulation software, computer-aided design software, and computational fluid dynamic analysis software.

The business planning is also an important part of this research. Through detailed market analysis, the needs for the proposed product/services being developed will be assessed. Through the combination of detailed cost analysis and the market needs, the economic viability of this launch system will be determined.