If you think it is difficult to find a decent cup of coffee when you’re far from home, spare a thought for astronauts who satiate their caffeine addictions for months at a time by drinking instant powdered coffee.
In fact, Italian coffee company Lavazza say a lack of freshly brewed espresso is a major complaint from their countrymen working on the International Space Station (ISS).
But a team of Italians has come to the rescue, with plans from Lavazza, the Italian Space Agency (ISA) and Argotec, an Italian engineering company that specialises in space food, to send the first capsule coffee machine into space in November 2014.
The coffee machine, called the ISSpresso, weighs 20 kilograms and, “is a veritable technological and engineering jewel, able to deliver a perfect espresso in weightless environment,” Lavazza said.
Currently a prototype of the space coffee machine is being tested at Argotec’s laboratories, undergoing all the necessary functional and safety checks. If all goes to plan, the ISSpresso will be launched into orbit with the crew of the Futura Mission, the second long-term mission of the ISA aboard the Space Station.
Come November, Air force captain Samantha Cristoforetti will be the first Italian woman in space and possibly the first astronaut in history to drink an authentic Italian espresso in orbit, albeit from a plastic pouch.
The ISSpresso will be installed to create the ‘corner café’ onboard the space station, a hub for socialising in space, Lavazza said.
The capsule system will also be able to prepare not only a regular espresso, but also a caffè lungo or hot beverages, such as tea, infusions and broth, so that food can also be rehydrated.
David Avino, managing director of Argotec, said aerospace engineers have designed a new-concept coffeemaker, which is safe for the astronauts and able to function in microgravity conditions.
“In addition to the engineering aspect, Argotec is also taking care of the European astronauts’ training and nutrition. Food provides an important psychological support and being able to enjoy a good Italian espresso may be just the right way to finish off the menu designed especially for each astronaut, helping him or her to feel closer to home,” he said.
Roberto Battiston, president of the ISA added: “The ISA will bring ISSpresso aboard the ISS, thanks to bilateral cooperation agreements with the NASA, as it shares with the project partners the objective of improving the quality of life of ISS astronauts, as well as the astronauts who will take part in future long interplanetary exploration missions.
“At the same time, we are also proud to contribute to the promotion of the image and spreading of the Made-in-Italy brand at international or better ‘space’, level,” he said.