The International Space Station (finally!) gets an espresso machine

SpaceX set to deliver NASA experiments along with coffee machine

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An unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon capsule waits for its launch to the International Space Station, on Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The unmanned SpaceX rocket was poised for launch from Florida on Monday to send a cargo ship – containing experiments and the espresso machine -- to the ISS, then turn around and attempt to land on a platform in the ocean, company officials said.

Credit: Reuters

NASA this week will be send its first espresso making machine into space letting astronauts onboard the International Space Station brew coffee, tea or other hot beverages for those long space days.

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Making espresso in space is no small feat as making the water heat to the right temperature – 208F – and generating enough pressure to make the brew are critical in the brewing process. And then getting it into a “cup,” well that’s nearly impossible in gravity-free space. [for a NASA discussion on liquids in space go here]

NASA, the Italian space agency ASI, aerospace firm Argotec, and coffee company Lavazza have come up with en experimental machine that will deliver the espresso into what basically amounts to a sippy pouch.

“Proving this technology in microgravity may lead to new or improved brewing methods. Crew members may enjoy an ISSpresso beverage using specially designed space cups as part of the Capillary Beverage study—an improvement to the standard drinking pouch with a straw. These specially designed containers use fluid properties such as surface tension to control the beverage in the cup. This test may add to the field of micro-fluidics, used in Earth-based medical and drug delivery applications,” NASA stated.

Other details on the machine, from NASA:

  • The ISSpresso requires 120V DC power which is obtained at the Utility Outlet Panel (UOP) on the ISS. 
  • The ISSpresso requires use of a NASA standard drink bag that interfaces with the Potable Water Dispenser (PWD) in the US LAB. A few minutes of crew time is required for each drink to brew.
  • ISSpresso is installed near a UOP that supplies 120V DC power. After ISSpresso is physically and electrically connected, a Water Pouch is installed, and the unit is powered on. In order to utilize the ISSpresso, a NASA standard drink bag is installed, along with a capsule containing the beverage item that the crew member wishes to drink.
  • After the item has been brewed, the used capsule and the drink bag are removed. ISSpresso is then powered off, the Water Pouch removed. ISSpresso is then disconnected from the UOP, and it is removed and stowed.

The espresso machine is onboard the sixth SpaceX commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station slated for today. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft are expected to will deliver 4,000lbs of research equipment for physical science, biology, biotechnology, human research and a myriad technology demonstrations to the station.

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