As it turns out, making Space Cups is not as simple as it might sound.
The flight-certified Space Coffee Cup is 3D printed, using the same material and specifications as NASA approved for flight on the space station. The production is expensive, each cup sells for $499.95, and the cup is not designed for everyday use, at least not on Earth. (“Think of this as a bit of art, science, and space history all in one,” advises the Spaceware website, adding that the cup is “definitely not dishwasher safe.”)
“The flight fidelity cup, without getting too much into the details, is printed with an SLA [stereolithography] process, so it is full-on 3D printed with post-processing for coating the surface,” said Jenson. “It is a more expensive process. That is what the actual cups in space are, and they are produced for several hundred dollars a piece.”
The porcelain Space Cup, available for $74.95 each in a choice of glossy or matte black, glossy red or glossy blue, was also difficult to manufacture.
“The design and geometry is all driven by the science and so it has all of these curves,” Jenson said. “That made it challenging to find someone who could make it.”
To ensure the correct shape, Spaceware produced a 3D-printed mold from which the porcelain cups are cast.
“It is a little more expensive than what we wanted it to be, but our biggest objective was to let people get their hands on it,” said Jenson.
Despite the different production and material, the porcelain Space Cups would work just like the flight-certified cups in space.
“It has the same geometry, the same curve and the same angle,” Jenson told collectSPACE.
On Earth, Space Cup owners will still need to rely on the pull of gravity to pour the beverages inside. The presence of gravity is also the reason behind an addition to the cup’s design.
“We added a base for one-g, so it sits,” Jenson said.
Time will tell how popular the Space Cup is among those on the ground, but it has already been in demand by those who have used it in orbit.
“Astronauts have been taking them home with them – they have been disappearing off the station,” revealed Jenson. “They are actually using them and drinking from them, but several have come back in their ‘luggage.'”