Three variants of yeast successfully launched on the so-called Mission Two on October 23, 2014 from New Mexico's Spaceport America. The launch was carried out by private aerospace company UP Aerospace for NASA's Flight Opportunities Program.
Ninkasi stored six vials of yeast just below the rocket's nose cone. Of the four batches that survived, a type of ale yeast is being used to brew an imperial stout called "Ground Control," which Ninkasi released on April 13.
Ground Control is available in specialty stores where Ninkasi currently distributes, which is mainly in the western United States and Canada. Small quantities also may be shipped to Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, DC.
The company plans to use the other launched yeasts in yet-to-be announced brews.
During the 77.3-mile-high flight, the vials of yeast were weightless for about four minutes. The samples were retrieved within 2.5 hours and were rushed back to Ninkasi's laboratory in Eugene, Oregon.
Mission Two marked Ninkasi’s second attempt to send yeast into space in just a few months. Ninkasi founder Jamie Floyd, a lifelong space enthusiast, said the idea came from meeting amateur rocketeers through a mutual friend.
The unsuccessful Mission One took place in July 2014 at the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, and was co-led by two amateur rocket groups, the Civilian Space eXploration Team (CSXT) and Team Hybriddyne,
The launch was executed well, but it took 27 days to locate the rocket after two of the three tracking devices failed at ignition. Also, the rocket fell two miles off course. By the time the yeast was retrieved, only a handful of cells were living.
However, the brewers learned some important lessons from the failed mission, like to not put the yeast at the nose cone tip, which experiences the greatest temperature change during flight, and thus makes it more difficult to keep the yeast alive.