WSU-NIAR among recipients of $50 million NASA award for sustainable aviation composite technology

Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) is one of 14 recipients of $50 million from NASA to develop manufacturing processes and advanced composite materials for aircraft structures.

The awards are from NASA’s Hi-Rate Composite Aircraft Manufacturing (HiCAM) project, which seeks to reduce the cost and increase the production rate of composite structures made in the U.S. These green technologies hold the potential to help reduce aviation carbon emissions.

With more lightweight, composite airframes in service, airlines will save fuel and reduce emissions, making commercial aviation more sustainable. Sustainability, cost, and aircraft production rate drive U.S. competitiveness in the commercial aircraft industry.

Waruna Seneviratne, director of NIAR’s Advanced Technologies Lab for Aerospace Systems, will lead the effort for Wichita State.

“This outstanding program brings together government, industry and academia to increase composite aircraft manufacturing rates, reduce costs and improve performance,” he said. “It will accelerate the insertion of new advanced materials, processes and techniques into the aviation, defense and advanced air mobility sectors.”

HiCAM works with a public-private partnership, the Advanced Composites Consortium (ACC), which allows partners to take advantage of each other’s expertise and increase the likelihood of the U.S. aviation industry adopting results. WSU-NIAR is a member of the ACC.

“By working together as a team, rather than as competitors, NASA and our partners will accelerate the development of technologies and the transition of those technologies onto the next generation of transport aircraft,” said Dr. Richard Young, HiCAM project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. 

HiCAM focues on three manufacturing concepts: next-generation thermosets, resin-infused composites, and thermoplastic composites. The new awards will support the evaluation and development of these concepts at small scales, including experiments in material processing, assembly techniques, inspection, and structural performance. 

The ACC member organizations that received NASA funding through these latest awards are:

  • 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

At the conclusion of this phase of the project, HiCAM will select the most promising concepts for further development, after which will follow a full-scale demonstration of fuselage or wing components by 2028.