Home Space In-fluid systems advance, astronauts soon to drink coffee from 3D-printed mugs

In-fluid systems advance, astronauts soon to drink coffee from 3D-printed mugs

One of the most common complaints among astronauts is the inability to get a good cup of coffee in space, according to long-established Italian coffee maker Guiseppe Lavazza. Fortunately, someone was listening and a top-of-the-line espresso machine has now been delivered to the International Space Station (ISS), courtesy of Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, reports 3D-print.com.

The Lavazza company, which has been manufacturing coffee products for more than one hundred years, the Italian Space Agency, and Italian engineering firm Argotec teamed up to create a coffee machine able to brew serve a cup of espresso in microgravity conditions, like those aboard the International Space Staton (ISS). The new coffeemaker is called ISSpresso.

Obviously, a normal drip coffeemaker would not operate on the ISS because it relies on gravity to work.  In the new space-ready espresso machine, the plastic tube that carries the water in a normal coffeemaker has been replaced by a special steel pipe capable of resisting pressures of over 400 bar.

The hot drink is then pumped into a plastic pouch, ready for the astronaut to drink it through a straw. Very nice for coffee-deprived space travelers, but not nearly as good as being able to drink the aromatic drink from actual cups instead of plastic bags reminiscent of those used in hospitals for other less appealing fluids. A solution for this too is in the offing.

Mark Weislogel, a professor in the Thermal-Fluid Sciences Group at Portland State University, his colleague Drew Wollman, and high school student  Nathan Ott have designed an oddly though rather elegantly shaped cup that instead of using gravity to control the flow of coffee, it uses the surface tension of the liquid. And it is entirely 3D printable using a design file transmitted to the ISS from Earth.

It is not known whether the new 3D-printed mugs will be used on the ISS this mission, but many think it will not be long before astronauts will be trading in their plastic bags and straws for these strange looking mugs,  3D-print.com. reports.

The new design is not limited to coffee cups. The team is looking into redesigning other fluid systems aboard the space station, including fuel tanks, life support systems, and cooling systems.