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European Space Agency (ESA) to support SATAVIA in scaling contrail management across commercial aviation

Image of an aircraft contrail viewed from a different aircraft at sunset

Contrail viewed from another aircraft - credit: Tim Winter (SATAVIA)

ESA funding to accelerate sustainability applications for SATAVIA's DECISIONX platform, developed with backing from the ARTES Space Solutions Program from 2020.

DECISIONX contrail management offers a unique opportunity for aircraft operators to reduce their non-CO2 footprint and accelerate progress towards climate-neutral operations.”
— Arnaud Runge, Project Manager at ESA
CAMBRIDGE, UNITED KINGDOM, May 15, 2023/ -- The European Space Agency (ESA) is to provide a new tranche of funding for UK-based green aerospace SME SATAVIA, building on previous R&D activity to accelerate the company’s efforts to scale contrail management across the commercial aviation sector.

The follow-on funding will build on SATAVIA’s beachhead engagements with leading operators Etihad, KLM and KLM Cityhopper, helping the company to establish new relationships with additional operators, conduct flight trial demonstrations leading to client-specific case studies and production contracts, and accelerate progress in carbon credit methodology development.

“This new round of ESA funding will supercharge industry progress towards smarter, greener aviation,” said SATAVIA CEO, Dr Adam Durant. “By implementing small changes to a minority of flights, eco-conscious operators can use DECISIONX to prevent contrails and eliminate the majority of their non-CO2 climate footprint with minimal impact on day-to-day operations.”

Aircraft-generated condensation trails, or contrails, cause surface warming amounting to two-thirds of aviation’s climate impact, almost double that of direct CO2 emissions from aircraft engines. Until recently, technical challenges made contrail prevention difficult or impossible, but SATAVIA has now developed the capacity to optimise flight plans for contrail management, leveraging DECISIONX atmospheric modelling to avoid atmospheric regions in which persistent warming contrails are likely to form.

“We are delighted to support SATAVIA’s industry-leading contrail prevention activity,” said Arnaud Runge, Project Manager at ESA. “In the context of a sector that has historically focused on reducing direct CO2 emissions, DECISIONX contrail management offers a unique opportunity for aircraft operators to reduce their non-CO2 footprint and accelerate progress towards climate-neutral operations. Holding a commercial pilot licence myself, I can only welcome an initiative making use of space data to make aviation greener”.

The commercial aviation sector is increasingly concerned with the contrail climate challenge, prompted in part by the European Commission’s late 2022 decision to mandate monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) of aviation’s non-CO2 impacts under the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) from 2025. In parallel, SATAVIA is developing a methodology to generate future voluntary carbon credits from contrail management activity, providing commercial incentives for adoption across the industry.

“This new voluntary carbon market will be worth at least $18bn globally, creating a bottom-line rationale for operators to cut their non-CO2 climate footprint,” said Durant. “As a software solution, contrail prevention can move aviation towards climate-neutral operation on relatively short timescales. With ESA support, we now look forward to establishing new connections with eco-conscious aircraft operators, expanding the art of the possible for sustainable aviation.”

About the European Space Agency:

The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space. ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. This activity is supported by ESA’s Space Solutions Programme:


SATAVIA applies atmospheric science to make aviation smarter and greener. Rooted in scientific acumen and working with leading players ranging from Microsoft to Etihad, SATAVIA embodies an entrepreneurial mindset with the ambition to transform the relationship between aviation and the environment.

Conor Farrington