NASA Awards $50 Million to 14 Organizations to Reduce Aviation Carbon Emissions

17 Apr 2023

Global carbon emissions from global commercial aviation have been increasing every year, contributing significantly to adverse climate conditions. 

As per the BIS Research report, the global emissions from commercial aviation reached 865.72 MMT of CO2 in 2021 and are expected to grow at a CAGR of 3.03% and hit 1,203.42 MMT of CO2 by 2032. Considering this, reducing carbon emissions is crucial for the sustainable future of aviation. 

Recently, NASA has taken a significant step in this direction by awarding $50 million to 14 organizations to develop green technologies that can help reduce aviation carbon emissions. The Hi-Rate Composite Aircraft Manufacturing (HiCAM) project by NASA aims to reduce the cost and increase the production rate of composite structures made in the U.S. These lightweight, composite airframes will help airlines save fuel and cut emissions, thus making commercial aviation more sustainable. 

Here's the complete story. 

HiCAM’s Mission and Partnerships

HiCAM was established by NASA to create manufacturing techniques and innovative composite materials for application in airplane structures. Before settling on three manufacturing concepts, i.e., next-generation thermosets, thermoplastic composites, and resin-infused composites, the initiative considered a variety of materials and manufacturing processes. The HiCAM project is part of NASA’s Sustainable Flight National Partnership, which aims to accelerate U.S. progress toward an environmentally and economically sustainable aviation future.

HiCAM collaborated with the Advanced Composites Consortium, a public-private partnership, to accomplish this objective. This consortium enables participants to benefit from one another's expertise and raises the probability that solutions will be adopted by the American aviation sector. The consortium's organizations that were given money through these most recent awards will match NASA's financing.

The following 14 organizations received NASA funding through the latest awards:

•    Advanced Thermoplastic Composites of Post Falls, Idaho
•    Boeing of St. Louis
•    CGTech of Irvine, California
•    Collier Aerospace of Newport News, Virginia
•    Collins Aerospace of Chula Vista, California
•    Electroimpact of Mukilteo, Washington
•    Hexcel, of Stamford, Connecticut
•    Lockheed Martin of Palmdale, California
•    Northrop Grumman of Clearfield, Utah
•    Solvay of Alpharetta, Georgia
•    Spirit AeroSystems of Wichita, Kansas
•    Toray Advanced Composites of Morgan Hill, California
•    University of South Carolina of Columbia, South Carolina
•    Wichita State University National Institute for Aviation Research

In addition to these 14 organizations, the consortium includes the following partners:

•    NASA Langley
•    Aurora Flight Sciences of Manassas, Virginia
•    Convergent Manufacturing Technologies US of Seattle
•    The Federal Aviation Administration William J. Hughes Technical Center at the Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey
•    GE Aviation of Evandale, Ohio,
•    Mississippi State University

Goals and Impact

The new awards will support the evaluation and development of the three manufacturing concepts at small scales, including experiments in material processing, inspection, assembly techniques, and structural performance. The objective is to expedite technological development and integrate those technologies into the upcoming iteration of transport aircraft.

Dr. Richard Wahls, mission integration manager for the Sustainable Flight National Partnership at NASA Headquarters in Washington, stated that HiCAM would "bring the value of composite technology to the high-volume single-aisle fleet and accelerate aviation toward meeting its goal of net-zero carbon emissions."

By 2028, a full-scale demonstration of fuselage or wing components will have taken place after HiCAM has chosen the most likely concepts for further development. HiCAM will receive $320 million in funding overall from NASA, including $184 million from the agency and $136 million from associate organizations.

The HiCAM project is part of NASA's larger efforts to address climate change and reduce the carbon footprint of the aviation industry. The aviation industry is responsible for around 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and with air travel predicted to increase in the coming years, it is crucial to find ways to make aviation more sustainable.

In aviation, the use of lightweight, composite airframes can drastically cut petroleum use and emissions. However, the manufacturing of these structures can be costly and time-consuming, which has limited their adoption in the industry. The HiCAM project aims to address these challenges by developing more efficient manufacturing processes and advanced composite materials that are cost-effective and scalable.

The latest round of funding from NASA's HiCAM project has been awarded to 14 organizations, including major players in the aviation industry such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman, as well as research institutions like the University of South Carolina and Wichita State University. These organizations will work on developing and evaluating next-generation thermosets, resin-infused composites, and thermoplastic composites at small scales.

The funding provided by NASA will allow these organizations to conduct experiments in material processing, assembly techniques, inspection, and structural performance, with the aim of selecting the most promising concepts for further development. 

NASA and its allies aim to accelerate the advancement and uptake of green technologies in the aviation sector by cooperating rather than competing. The HiCAM project is a vital step towards meeting the industry's goal of net-zero carbon emissions, and it will help the U.S. remain competitive in the global commercial aircraft market.


This initiative by NASA is a significant investment in the development of green technologies for the aviation industry. With the funding provided by NASA, these organizations can work together to develop more efficient manufacturing processes and advanced composite materials that are cost-effective and scalable. The ultimate goal is to have a full-scale demonstration of fuselage or wing components by 2028, contributing toward the industry's goal of net-zero carbon emissions.

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