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Italian espresso in space celebrates International Coffee Day

02-10-2017 •Events and Sponsorships

ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and the crew of the ASI VITA mission successfully test the ISSpresso project, drinking coffee using the innovative capsule machine made by Argotec for Lavazza.

Turin, October 1st 2017 – The ASI VITA (Vitality, Innovation, Technology, Ability) mission, with its main participant, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, enjoy an authentic Italian espresso on board the International Space Station (ISS) to celebrate International Coffee Day. The crew successfully tested the same ISSpresso capsule machine created by Argotec for Lavazza - partnership with theItalian Space Agency (ASI) - that enabled Samantha Cristoforetti to drink the first espresso in the history of mankind in an environment of microgravity on 3rd May 2015, during the Italian mission “Futura”.

The partnership with ASI, which coordinated the experiment, allowed the machine to be brought onto the International Space Station in the first phase of the test. Following this, an agreement was reached with NASA to keep the ISSpresso permanently in orbit. This extraordinary event took place in the run up to world coffee celebration day, at the handover between European Space Agency astronauts AstroSamantha and AstroPaolo, who had completed his third space flight and, during the last few months, has managed to carry out several experiments promoted by Argotec.

“We are proud to celebrate International Coffee Day 400 km from Earth, with this important, all-Italian research project, carried out in collaboration with Argotec”,said Marco Lavazza, Vice President of the Lavazza Group. “With ISSpresso, Lavazza confirms its pioneering role in innovation: the technology has enabled astronauts to enjoy the same blend that is available on Earth.”

The ISSpresso machine, a true technological and engineering jewel, allowed another Italian astronaut to enjoy an espresso in space just as he would at home. ISSpresso has been researched to replicate the same aroma in orbit: the cream and the coffee are not blended as they would be on Earth, but are separated and the traditional cup is replaced by a special bag, called the “pouch”. ISSpresso can make coffee in extreme conditions, where the principles governing fluid dynamics are completely different from those on terra firma.
The preparation operations carried out during the test by the crew are the same: maximum practicality and simplicity for an espresso to be enjoyed through a straw. ISSpresso meets NASA’s very stringent requirements in terms of compatibility with on-board systems and the astronaut interface. The coffee machine is also equipped with an innovative device that cleans the coffee dispensing line.

David Avino, Managing Director at Argotec, said“ISSpresso became, to all intents and purposes, an on-board system of the International Space Station. After two years on the ISS in conditions of micro-gravity, the machine is still functioning perfectly which is testament to the excellent design work carried out. The robust and reliable design machine provides not only an enjoyable break but also an interesting study and analysis of physical phenomena that are impossible to replicate on the ground. It represents a scientific project that incorporates a “green” aspect of the product - it allowed us to patent innovative technologies that eliminate coffee and water deposits produced by machines on Earth, reducing water waste by up to 30%.”

Gabriele Mascetti, head of Human Flight and Microgravity at ASI, said“Growing interest in the international community for human space exploration is laying the essential foundations for astronauts to venture once again beyond the Earth's low orbit, something we have not seen since the Apollo missions. The huge costs involve to complete such endeavours has triggered new global approaches and the growth of new markets. In this context, the space exploration race is also supported by commercial players: ISSPresso, the result of a public-private partnership, is a brilliant example of how the Italian Space Agency has succeeded in promoting interest in space through essentially private efforts. Moreover, in view of the excellent credibility that ASI enjoys with NASA and our solid relationship, ASI has negotiated the use of ISSPresso as on-board space station equipment. Since it will no longer be solely an Italian experiment, the apparatus will remain on the station instead of being burned up in the atmosphere, and NASA will provide the resources to operate it without compromising the rights of Italy to use the space station. Astronauts on ISS will therefore be enjoying excellent Italian coffee for a long time to come.”