Coffee calling Earth: at 12.44 GMT, the first espresso coffee was drunk in space. An espresso wish finally come true with the help of ISSpresso, the first capsule espresso machine that can work in the extreme conditions found in space.
It was installed on the International Space Station by Samantha Cristoforetti, the Italian European Space Agency astronaut, Italian Air Force captain and member of Futura, the second long-duration mission sent to the ISS by the Italian Space Agency.
Today, therefore, Samantha Cristoforetti becomes not only the first Italian woman in space, but also the first astronaut in history to drink authentic Italian espresso coffee in orbit. The ISSpresso project is an initiative by Argotec and Lavazza in a public/private sector partnership with the Italian Space Agency (ASI).
ISSpresso, one of the nine experiments selected by the Italian Space Agency for Samantha Cristoforetti’s Futura Mission, not only symbolises the Italian made technology that has won a place on the space station, but is also the result of advanced scientific research.
Making coffee in space isn’t easy, requiring some extremely sophisticated technology, and this is the first capsule espresso machine that can work in the extreme conditions in space, where the principles that determine the fluid dynamic characteristics of liquids and mixtures are very different from those typically found on earth.
ISSpresso is a veritable gem of advanced technology and engineering, able to produce perfect espresso coffee even in weightless conditions. This is why it was selected by the Italian Space Agency for use on board the ISS.
A coffee break in space. Operations to support the experiment were supervised by the Argotec control center and monitored by the Italian Space Agency’s control centers. The first espresso coffee made in space was welcomed with great enthusiasm by Futura Mission crew members.
The ISSpresso machine, which uses the same Lavazza coffee capsules as those found on earth, has been designed and built to deliver the same quality as an authentic Italian espresso coffee in terms of cream, body, aroma and temperature.
The drink was produced in microgravity conditions and respects all the characteristics of Italian espresso coffee. Once the coffee has been ‘poured’, a patented new system cleans the final section of the hydraulic circuit and at the same time generates a small pressure difference inside the special pouch used as a space “espresso cup”, so that when the straw is inserted, all the aroma of the coffee is released.
The pouch is made from a transparent material, making it possible to observe the cream directly as part of the fluid dynamic experiment being conducted and to study the behaviour in space of liquids at high pressure and temperature.
ISSpresso takes its name from the International Space Station (ISS), on which it has been installed thanks to the access and usage rights held exclusively in Europe by the Italian Space Agency, in the framework of bilateral cooperation with NASA. It is the first capsule espresso coffee machine that can work in the extreme conditions of space, where the principles that determine the fluid dynamic characteristics of liquids and mixtures are very different from those typically found on earth.
ISSpresso was born out of a project by Argotec, the Italian engineering company which specialises in the design of aerospace systems and is European leader in the preparation of healthy and nutritious food to eat in space, and historic Italian coffee brand Lavazza.
ISSpresso is a technological challenge that satisfies the extremely stringent requirements established by the Italian Space Agency and NASA in terms of technical operation and safety: it represents an important scientific and engineering milestone that will contribute to increasing our knowledge about fluid dynamic principles in conditions of microgravity, as well as contributing to improving astronauts’ quality of life on the ISS.
The innovative capsule system can also make ‘caffè lungo’ (an espresso with a little more water than usual) and hot drinks like tea, herbal infusions and broth for rehydrating freeze dried foods. International patent applications have been filed for several of the solutions introduced, which may prove useful both for future space missions and here on earth.
“The experiment represents an advanced engineering project,” Italian Space Agency President Roberto Battiston reminds us, “the result of a partnership between the public and private sectors which has produced innovative solutions that will not only have immediate psychological benefits for astronauts, but also generate an important economic return for Italian industry in the sector, promote its image and establish an advanced technology positioning for future space missions”.
“With the successful conclusion of today’s experiment, we have completed the challenge we set ourselves almost a year ago when we presented the project, not only overcoming the limits of weightlessness and allowing the astronauts on board the International Space Station to drink excellent espresso coffee, that undisputed symbol of Italian made products, but also improving our knowledge about fluid dynamics”, commented with satisfaction Argotec Managing Director David Avino and Lavazza Group Vice President Giuseppe Lavazza, “The collaboration between Argotec and Lavazza, in partnership with ASI, demonstrates how synergy between two Italian companies, both based in Turin and both recognised for excellence in their own sectors, can deliver extraordinary results of international importance.”