2014: Espresso Goes To Space

June 16, 2014

Turin, Italy (June 13, 2014) – “An espresso coffee is what I miss most aboard the International Space Station,” is a comment heard repeatedly for 13 years from the Italian astronauts working in the International Space Station. Today, Lavazza and Argotec in conjunction with the Italian Space Agency (ASI) announce 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.

“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 shot by Thierry Le Gouès and our Mission to Espresso calendar.  At the time this may have looked like a work of science fiction but was actually just a vision of the future. Today we are in a position to overcome the limits of weightlessness and enjoy a good espresso — the indisputable symbol of authentic Italy culinary 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.”

David Avino, Managing Director of Argotec states “Our aerospace engineers, alongside Lavazza’s experience as a leader in capsule extraction systems, have designed a new-concept coffeemaker, which is safe for the astronauts and able to function in microgravity conditions.  This is an ultra high-tech project which has led to innovative solutions, applicable with immediate returns on Earth as well. ISSpresso is a technological challenge that meets very stringent requirements, imposed by the Italian Space Agency, in terms of technical functionality and safety.

In addition to the engineering aspect, Argotec is also taking care of the European astronauts’ 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.” 

Delfina Bertolotto, Head of the Human Spaceflight Unit of the Italian Space Agency adds: “ISSpresso is a perfect example of the way ASI's decision to make ISS national usage rights available to public-private partnership initiatives can result in a valorisation of public resources for technological, economic, and social objectives. The ASI 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 austronauts, 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.”

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 café’ 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 Argotech 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. 

To comment on Twitter: #MissionEspresso, @LavazzaUSA, @argotec_it, @AgenziaSpazial

ABOUT AGROTEC: Agrotec us an Italian aerospace company, with headquarters in Turin. The company focuses on research, innovation, and development in many sectors: engineering, information technology, systems integration and "human space flights and operations". Argotec trains European ground controllers as well as astronauts at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne.

ABOUT LAVAZZA: Lavazza was established in Turin in 1895 and has been owned for four generations. The world’s seventh ranking coffee roaster, today Lavazza is the retail market leader in Italy with a market share by value of over 47% (source: Nielsen), 3,300 employees and sales of EUR 1,340 million (as of December 31, 2013). The company has five production sites, four in Italy and one abroad, operates through associated companies and distributors in more than 90 countries and exports 46% of its production.  Lavazza invented the concept of coffee blending - or in other words the art of combining different types of coffee from different geographical areas - in its early years and this continues to be a distinctive feature of all its products. The company also has 25 years of experience in the production and sale of portioned coffee systems and products and was the first Italian business to offer capsule espresso systems. Today, through ongoing partnerships with an international network of universities and scientific research centers, Lavazza operates four platforms in this segment.  Lavazza is the official coffee at the Italy Pavilion, Expo 2015.


Michele J. Abo, left, and Ricky Khetarpaul, right, join the Lavazza Premium Coffee Corp Executive team under the direction of Ennio Ranaboldo, CEO of Lavazza North America.

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