Espresso goes to outer space

Coffee calling Earth: at 12.44 GMT on May 3, the first espresso coffee was drunk in space. ISSpresso, the first capsule espresso machine that can work in the extreme conditions found in space, 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. She became 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 symbolizes 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.

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,was 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 is ‘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.

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