Agrotec and Lavazza Bring Espresso to Space



On June 13th, Lavazza and Argotec in conjunction with the Italian Space Agency (ASI) announced their project to create ISSpresso, the first capsule-based espresso system able to work in space, will bring Lavazza’s authentic Italian espresso onto the upcoming International Space Station mission called, the Futura Mission (launch date scheduled for: November 23, 2014). Air Force Captain Samantha Cristoforetti, of the European Space Agency will be on board and will be the first Italian woman to go into space as well as the first astronaut in history to drink espresso while in orbit.

The ISSpresso machine taking its name from the International Space Station (ISS) where it will be installed is the first capsule-based espresso system to work in space conditions where the principles regulating the fluid dynamics of liquids and mixtures are very different from those typical on Earth. Argotec, the Italian engineering company specialized in the design of aerospace systems and European leader in the preparation of healthy and nutritious foods for in-space consumption, and Lavazza, the historic “made in Italy” coffee brand created this technological and engineering jewel that will deliver a perfect espresso in weightless environment. It was selected by the Italian Space Agency to be used aboard the ISS, which is open to public and private partnership projects and activities to be carried out by the ISS.

A coffee break in space. A prototype of the space coffee machine is currently being tested at Argotec’s laboratories and all the necessary functional and safety checks are being carried out to launch ISSpresso into orbit with the Futura Mission crew, one of whom is the Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. From a psychological standpoint the corner cafe’ will be the hub for socializing on board the Station, a venue for getting together, chatting and relaxing: an aspect that should not be ignored in missions that keep the astronauts away from home for many months in a very challenging environment. The innovative capsule system will also be able to prepare regular espresso as well as caffè lungo and hot beverages, such as tea, infusions and broth, so that food can be rehydrated.

Extra-terrestrial technology. Every the smallest detail of ISSpresso is designed to respond to a scientific and engineering challenge. In fact, studies conducted to create the machine have allowed Argotec and Lavazza to tackle the principles of physics and fluid dynamics, including the difficulty of handling liquids within space’s high pressure and high temperatures environment. For example, the plastic tube carrying the water inside a normal espresso machine has been replaced with a special steel tube designed to withstand pressure of more than 400 bar. The machine is so complex that it weighs about 20 kilograms since there are back-ups of all the critical components (for safety reasons) in accordance with the specifications agreed upon with the Italian Space Agency.

ISSpresso represents a technologically high-value project which, besides adding variety to the astronauts’ menu, will help improve our understanding of the principles of fluid dynamics and conditions in microgravity. Some of the solutions adopted have led to international patents, which will be useful both for future space missions and immediate terrestrial use.

posted by: Eric Fujimori