The inauguration ceremony was attended by Stéphane Abrial, Safran Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Corporate Office, Philippe Schleicher, Chairman and CEO of Herakles, Bruno Sainjon, head of operations at the French defense procurement agency DGA, and Alain Rousset, President of the Aquitaine Regional Council. The new facility is named LICORNE™ (Ligne Industrielle de Collecte des Objets pyrotechniques et de Réduction Naturelle des Effluents), which stands for "Collection line for pyrotechnic objects and natural reduction of effluents."
Herakles’ new facility, a pioneering environmental solution and the only one of its kind in Europe processes ammonium perchlorate, the main ingredient in the solid propellants used by solid rocket motors powering launch vehicles and missiles. LICORNE™ is based on a process patented by Herakles, which uses bacteria to transform the ammonium perchlorate into nitrogen and chloride. Located at the company’s Saint-Médard site in the Bordeaux region, this new facility offers annual processing capacity of 300 metric tons of ammonium perchlorate, which covers all current requirements.
According to Philippe Schleicher, Chairman and CEO of Herakles,"We have met a major challenge by setting up this environmentally-friendly solution to eliminate propellant waste, drawing on research conducted with the support of the DGA. Our new LICORNE facility reflects Herakles’ commitment to an eco-responsible approach that will help protect current and future generations."
The Herakles plant in Saint-Médard produces solid propellant, a highly energetic material with a number of applications, including the solid rocket motors on the Ariane 5 and Vega launch vehicles, propulsion systems for strategic and tactical missiles, auto airbags and much more. The traditional treatment method for treating propellant waste and residue in solid rocket motors at the end of life, which involves burning this waste, is still compliant with regulations, but also generates atmospheric emissions.
To set the environmental example in its sector, the DGA teamed up with Herakles to develop technologies that could be used to responsibly dismantle missiles and destroy all propellant and ammonium perchlorate waste in these rocket motors at the end of their life. In December 2013, the DGA and Herakles made a commitment to ensuring the treatment of production waste for the next ten years, as well as handling the dismantling of M45 missiles when taken out of service, and starting a dismantling process for M51 missiles. The Aquitaine Regional Council also contributed by co-funding the new facility.
The culmination of R&D work that kicked off 20 years ago, the LICORNE™ facility allows Herakles to maintain control over the complete life cycle of its products. Herakles’ investment in this innovative new facility also reflects the company’s commitment to getting a head start on any changes in regulations concerning the burning of propellant waste. As one of the world leaders in solid propulsion, Herakles has made a firm commitment to applying an eco-responsible approach.
Herakles (herakles.com), a Safran company, designs, develops, produces and sells solid rocket motors, energetic materials and equipment, and thermostructural and organic composite materials for the defense, aerospace, automotive and manufacturing industries. Herakles provides products and services for a number of applications, including strategic and tactical missiles, launch vehicles, civil and military aircraft, automotive safety systems and tooling for manufacturers.