This July, Ninkasi Brewing Co., a regional craft brewery located in Eugene, Ore., will continue its quest to “perpetuate better living” anywhere mankind’s journey leads — even to space. With the first mission in the books for this summer, Ninkasi announced NSP, the Ninkasi Space Program.
In partnership with the Civilian Space eXploration Team (CSXT), the first amateur rocketeer group to successfully launch a rocket to space in 2004, the team will do it again, 10 years later, and carrying a payload of 16 strains of brewer’s yeast above Earth’s atmosphere.
“NSP is a very serendipitous project,” explained Nikos Ridge, chief executive officer and co-founder of Ninkasi. “I don’t think you could have planned a more perfect pairing of beer and space geekery.”
Introduced through a mutual friend, Ridge met with Bruce Lee, of CSXT, at an amateur rocket launch competition in 2013 where the idea first came about.
“As a result of meeting Nikos, CSXT is pleased to include Ninkasi as a team member for the launch,” said Bruce Lee, principle and range safety officer for CSXT. “Launching brewer’s yeast into space will be an interesting experiment – something we’ve never done before.”
With almost a year of planning, NSP will finally get off the ground this month. Ninkasi’s lab technician, Dana Garves, and RapidMade, a Portland, Ore., company specializing in 3D printing, worked hand-in-hand to design and create a payload container built specifically to safely carry the 16 yeast strains into space and back to Earth for brewing.
“I couldn’t contain my excitement when I first heard of NSP,” Garves said. “We spent hours researching, developing and testing what we think will ensure that the yeast travels safely and returns to us healthy enough to brew with.”
After the launch, CSXT will retrieve the payload and immediately hand off the yeast samples to Garves who will analyze the yeast on-site with a microscope used in conjunction with her smartphone.
“Since we’ll be off-the-grid for the launch, I had to figure out a way to examine the samples remotely,” Garves said. On-site, Garves will be testing for the viability of the yeast, analyzing the number of dead and live yeast cells.
If successful, the NSP team will return to the brewery with healthy yeast, ready to make its way into a special beer for craft beer and space aficionados alike.
“Obviously, the fact that we’ve never launched yeast into space presents many challenges in itself even with months of planning,” Ridge said. “While we have confidence in our partners and the process, this is uncharted territory on several fronts and I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds on launch day.”