NASA has awarded a total of $50 million to 14 organizations for the development of manufacturing processes and advanced composite materials for aircraft structures. Part of the agency’s Hi-Rate Composite Aircraft Manufacturing (HiCAM) project, funded work will look to “reduce the cost and increase the production rate of composite structures made in the U.S.” It will cover experiments in material processing, assembly techniques, inspection and structural performance over HiCAM’s three established manufacturing concepts, which include next-generation thermosets, resin-infused composites and thermoplastic composites.
“With more lightweight, composite airframes in service, airlines will save fuel and reduce emissions, making commercial aviation more sustainable,” NASA said. “Sustainability, cost, and aircraft production rate drive U.S. competitiveness in the commercial aircraft industry.”
Among the organizations receiving funding are Boeing, Collins Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Spirit AeroSystems, the University of South Carolina and Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research. NASA noted that HiCAM will select the most promising concepts for further development. Full-scale demonstrations of fuselage or wing components are expected by 2028.