Date of Award

January 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Space Studies

First Advisor

Pablo de Leon


A lifting body scaled glider to be used as a recovery method for high altitude ballooning payloads has been developed at the University of North Dakota. Current recovery techniques for balloon payloads consist of monitoring and chasing the payload signal until it can be recovered. It is expected that a lifting body glider can reduce the distance for payload recovery and in some cases effectively return the payload back to the Ground Station. A preliminary subsonic aerodynamic model has been developed using MATLAB and the Vortex Lattice Method (VLM). Traditional evaluation techniques typical for calculation of the aerodynamic coefficients are not sufficient to predict the flight performance of the glider due to its fuselage lift contribution. Thus, two-dimensional panel methods along with the traditional three-dimensional VLM are used in conjunction to produce adequate results. The proposed computational model is expected to sufficiently estimate the subsonic aerodynamic characteristics of the glider to allow for the optimization of the geometry. The calculated loads will be used to design the structure of the glider, which is fabricated using composites and the appropriate resin. The glider will be integrated with a separately developed navigation system before undergoing a preliminary low altitude flight test for verification of the computational model and structural design. The aerodynamic coefficients will be compiled into functions which will be used in the MATLAB Aerospace Module and Simulink Blockset to create a robust model for simulation studies. The model must be developed such that the operator can simulate different flight paths and optimize the carrying capacity of the glider to support various payloads used for atmospheric experimentation. The resulting simulation will allow the user to analyze and trim the glider for various flight configurations depending on the location of the center of mass and the anticipated release altitude. For high altitude ballooning students unfamiliar with computational aerodynamics, the simulation model will help the student to visualize how difficult or easy the glider would be to control under the current configuration.