Monday 23 May 2022

MADE IN ITALY – Espresso in in orbit with Argotec, Lavazza and the Italian Space Agency

Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti brings the ISSpresso coffee machine to the International Space Station

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MILAN – Astronauts on the International Space Station will finally be able to enjoy a decent cup of espresso thanks to a 20-kilogramme machine designed by famed Italian coffee makers Lavazza.

The ISSpresso machine reached the orbital station this weekend, carried there by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. Samantha, 37, was launched into space from a facility in Kazakhstan this Sunday. She joins Russian Elena Serova, who has been in orbit since September, to form the most female-heavy crew in years.

“ISSpresso,” a joint effort by Italian coffee company Lavazza, engineering firm Argotec and Italian space agency ASI will let astronauts enjoy non-instant coffee in space for the first time.

Cristoforetti, who is also a captain in the Italian airforce, “will be not only the first female astronaut from Italy to go into space, but also the very first astronaut in the history of the conquest of space to savour an authentic Italian espresso in orbit,” the two companies said in a statement.

Its name is ISSpresso. It takes its name from the International Space Station (ISS), where it is to be installed. It is the first capsule-based espresso system able to work in the extreme conditions of space, where the principles that regulate the fluid dynamics of liquids and mixtures are very different from those typical on Earth.

ISSpresso is the product of a project run by Argotec, the Italian engineering company specialised 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 Italian coffee brand. ISSpresso is a veritable technological and engineering jewel, able to deliver a perfect espresso in weightless environment.

This is why it was selected by the Italian Space Agency to be used aboard the ISS, in the framework of the Request for Expression of Interest that the Agency keeps constantly open to public-private partnership projects and activities to be carried out in the ISS.

“Italian coffee is a beverage without borders — comments Giuseppe Lavazza, Vice President of Lavazza — and we have been thinking about taking the espresso into space for some time.

Indeed, as far back as ten years ago we launched the espresso into orbit artistically with the photographs taken by Thierry Le Gouès and our Mission to Espresso calendar, which at the time may have looked like a work of science fiction but was actually just a vision of the future.

In fact, today we are in a position to overcome the limits of weightlessness and enjoy a good espresso — the indisputable symbol of made in Italy products — on board the International Space Station.

We are proud to have worked on this major project with Argotec, through the Lavazza Innovation Center, our division dedicated to research and product innovation: a scientific and engineering challenge which we hope will improve the living and nutrition quality of astronauts engaged on long missions.”

“Our aerospace engineers — stated David Avino, Managing Director of Argotec — have designed a new-concept coffeemaker, which is safe for the astronauts and able to function in microgravity conditions, also thanks to Lavazza’s experience as a leader in capsule extraction

Extra-terrestrial technology
Every tiniest detail of ISSpresso is designed to respond to a scientific and engineering challenge: in fact, the machine studies have enabled principles of physics and fluid dynamics to be tackled, such as the difficulty of handling liquids at high pressure and high temperature in a space environment.

Just think that 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 increasing the variety of flavour in 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.

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