Approximately 200 miles from Earth, astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) are working long, hard hours in a microgravity environment far away from their homes...without good coffee. Luckily for them, they are about to get a custom-made espresso machine created by Italian company Lavazza to properly satisfy their caffeine fixes.
Lavazza's ISSpresso is specifically designed for use in space. Lavazza and space engineering company Argotec worked together to create a machine that will brew them fresh Italian coffee for their long days. The machine is built according to the principles of fluid dynamics in space, and is as complex as it is rewarding.
Rather than a full ground coffee machine, the ISSpresso is a capsule that weighs 44 pounds and pumps espresso into a small pouch that must be sipped with a straw. It is built to withstand high pressures, up to 400 bar, by containing a water-routing tube made of steel rather than plastic.
The machine not only creates espresso, "but also a caffé lungo or hot beverages, such as tea, infusions and broth, so that food can also be rehydrated," says Lavazza. It is engineered for multiple functions, including creating an environment of warmth and relaxation. The creators envision ISSpresso becoming a social hub for the astronauts working far from their friends and families for many months at a time.
"A sort of social network in space," Lavazza says, "[The ISSpresso will be] a venue for getting together, chatting and relaxing."
The flight of the ISSpresso is supported by agreements between NASA and the Italian Space Agency (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana), which expresses its pride in promoting Italian-made products beyond Italy and Earth's borders.
Currently, the astronauts drink instant coffee that is packaged in foil pouches and added to water recycled from urine and other wastewater. The ISSpresso, due to be delivered in November, will be a novelty and a comfort. The European Space Agency will send the machine up to the ISS with ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, another novelty-the first Italian female astronaut in space.
"How cool is that?" Cristoforetti tweeted. "I'll get to operate the first space espresso machine!"