Research

Espresso in Space

The International Space Station resupply mission launched yesterday included a long-awaited fluid dynamics experiment that offers astronauts a taste of home: the ISSpresso espresso machine. Built by two Italian companies, the specially-designed espresso maker contains a non-convectional heating system and high-pressure piping to safely enable proper brewing using real coffee while in microgravity. The machine is also ruggedized to withstand launch forces; prototypes were even dropped in drop towers to simulate microgravity brewing conditions. The machine dispenses the brewed espresso into plastic packets, but another experiment aboard the ISS, Capillary Effects of Drinking in Microgravity, includes 3D-printed cups designed to allow orbiting astronauts to sip their beverages from open containers without spilling. They’re an improvement on a design created by astronaut Don Pettit in 2008 while in orbit. The cup’s sharp interior angle causes surface tension and capillary action to wick liquid upward to the spout. (Image credits: Lavazza; NASA/Portland State University/A. Wollman)

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