France’s Framatome has announced the launch of Framatome Space “putting its 65 years of nuclear and industrial expertise at the service of the space industry”. Framatome CEO Bernard Fontana said the company is proud to be part of the new age of space travel. “We already supply the space industry with domes for the tanks of launchers and hafnium for the hardened alloys for spacecraft. With the creation of Framatome Space we are taking things to the next level,” he noted, “The space industry is looking to nuclear to facilitate faster and more efficient missions. Who better than Framatome, with over six decades of experience and expertise in nuclear power, to contribute to the next giant leap for mankind?”

Framatome is already supporting France’s Atomic Energy Commission (CEA – Commissariat à l'énergie Atomique et aux énergies Alternatives) and Ariane Group (a 50/50 joint venture between Airbus and Safran) with a feasibility study on a nuclear-thermal propulsion engine. It involves heating liquid hydrogen by passing it through a nuclear reactor core to transform it into gas at a high temperature, before ejecting it to generate thrust. Framatome says this would have two to three times greater efficiency than a conventional chemical engine and could halve time needed to travel to Mars from six to three months.

Framatome “stands ready to play a decisive role in the future of space exploration”, said Grégoire Lambert, Vice President for Strategy at Framatome and Framatome Space. “We firmly believe that nuclear is a game changer to provide the amount of energy needed by any development.” He added: “With our vast experience in the design and supply of equipment, services and fuel for nuclear power plants, combined with our history of working for environments with very high constraints, Framatome has a wealth of expertise to offer as mankind prepares to travel to the furthest reaches of the universe."