Dreaming up new products for adidas makes for some great brainstorming sessions. When we team up to work on a new athlete insight or technology, we ask provocative, or even silly questions. What could we do to make it worse? What if it was made of gummy bears? How would it work without gravity? Such questions help to break our mindset and keep us open to new ideas and perspectives. Recently, we had the opportunity to think again and ask: “No really, what if we could work in space?”

In 2019 we got to answer that question thanks to a multi-year partnership with the International Space Station (ISS) US National Laboratory, managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, CASIS, to explore the boundaries of product innovation, human performance and sustainability.

As part of adidas and ISS US National Laboratory’s commitment to leading innovation within their respective fields, the partnership will pursue breakthroughs to improve future design and engineering for athletes on and off Earth.

Discard old habits and assumptions

In considering sportswear or experiments in space, the trick is to separate habits, normally valid assumptions, and expectations from background knowledge and experience. We want to see a challenge with fresh eyes, but with the knowledge base of an interdisciplinary team. Space and microgravity is an extreme example, but that sort of mindset is necessary for innovation.

The laboratory conditions on the International Space Station are completely unique and give an opportunity to conduct tests that would be impossible on Earth. The mission of the International Space Station US National Laboratory is undertaking “science in space for the benefit of people on Earth” and, with that in mind, we chose to pursue an engineering experiment that could support our research and development of products for athletes on the ground.

Two men and one woman standing together smiling in a group at NASA, spaces, ISS, sports, collaboration, teamwork, adidas, Nanorocks
Teaming up for top results.

Sending soccer balls to space

We created a soccer ball project for our first space-based experiment primarily because our strong technical foundation allows us to design good scientific studies and interpret and implement the findings. Furthermore, the ball is one of adidas’ most impactful products. It is at the center of the most-watched event and the most-played sport and it connects people across cultural and geographic boundaries. Soccer can unite and form communities, and inspire confidence, and provide feelings of accomplishment. When we get the opportunity to contribute to such a life-changing phenomenon, we’re motivated to keep pushing the limits to make the best ball in the world (or solar system).

The scientific goals

The goal of the experiments was to isolate the air-ball aerodynamic interaction in a way that is not normally possible. On Earth, we can observe and measure a soccer ball when it is either airborne for a short time moving quickly (i.e. human or robot-kicked), or rigidly mounted in a wind tunnel. In space, the freely suspended ball in microgravity gives us datapoints we simply cannot get on Earth.

Inside ISS, we conducted two series of tests in flowing and stationary air using a standard 32 panel ball, a current 2019 Nativo Questra, and an experimental prototype. We measured the motion and spin to quantify the interaction between the air and the ball. Thanks to the excellent work and persistence of the crew members on the space station, the experiments worked as planned. Not only did we gather data to supplement and anchor our ground-based testing, we also observed something surprising – a bi-stable spin-axis flip (Dzhanibekov effect), which has opened a new path of investigation.

Soccer ball spinning during testing, adidas, football, soccer, sports, testing, equipment, collaboration, innovation
An adidas football is put to the test.

Partners that push boundaries

In addition to the scientific learnings for soccer ball development, we are also learning from the experience of working with the space industry. When we brought our wild ideas to the ISS US National Lab, they were eager to learn about our work so we could quickly find the best way to collaborate.

Our implementation partner was NanoRacks, and they helped translate our experimental design to something practical for ISS. They design permanent and experiment-specific hardware for ISS so they know space inside and out. We’re not a space company, and this was a great example of the benefits in partnering with and learning from experts in other industries.

Soccer ball testing in space, innovation, collaboration, ISS, adidas, sports, equipment, innovation
Testing that is out of this world.

Learning together

Although space exploration and the sportswear industry seem very far apart, we were all surprised by the topics we have in common and the learnings we can take from each other. For example, we see a trend of decreasing participation in sport among young girls as they progress through school, and NASA observes a similar trend with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) topics. How might we work together to keep kids active and learning?

Sustainability is another shared high-priority topic. At adidas, we’re changing our materials, and developing products that are “made to be re-made”.

Partnering with experts in other industries can help us think differently about our work and provide unique opportunities for new scientific insights that support the creation of exciting new products for our users. In this regard, not even the sky is the limit.

64 COMMENTS & EXTERNAL REFERRALS

Please take note of the commenting guidelines.
You will receive an email to approve your comment.
Please take note of the commenting guidelines.
You will receive an email to approve your comment.

Thanks for your comment

You will receive an email to approve your comment. It will only appear after your confirmation.

Okay

Oh no! An unexpected error occurred.

Try again

EXTERNAL REFERRALS

16.09.2021

Rich people are going to space. So is product placement. – Ham Kar Chan

16.09.2021

Rich people are going to space. So is product placement. – Nzuchi Times Vox

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement history - Vox

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement history - ReportWire

16.09.2021

Rich people are going to space. So is product placement. - incloudhosting

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement history – Newsclay

16.09.2021

Rich people are going to space. So is product placement. – News Bazzar

16.09.2021

Check out SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness the history of product placement – Bemb News

16.09.2021

Rich people are going to space. So is product placement. – Maverick Studios

16.09.2021

Fighjate u lanciu Inspiration4 di SpaceX è testimuniate di a storia di u piazzamentu di i prudutti: | Talk Table Online

16.09.2021

Rich people are going to space. So is product placement. - FTNewsire

16.09.2021

Rich people are going to space. So is product placement. - blacktechdaily.com

16.09.2021

Rich people are going to space. So is product placement. – Techmoca

16.09.2021

Check out the launch of SpaceX’s Inspiration4 and see the history of the launch - Techly360

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement history - Chats Worth News

16.09.2021

Vea el lanzamiento de Inspiration4 de SpaceX y sea testigo del historial de colocación de productos - Blog | Internet, Cibersegurdad, Digitalización y Tecnología

16.09.2021

Check out the launch of SpaceX’s Inspiration4 and see the history of the launch - Trending24x7.com

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement history - Knocking Live

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX Inspiration4 Release And Witness The History Of Product Placement - News Nixon

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement history – InstaBumper

16.09.2021

Wealthy persons are going to area. So is product placement. - Wahu Times

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement historical past - Top Ind News

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement history - swiftheadline

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement history – Omni Innotech

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement historical past - Cool Dude 69

16.09.2021

Rich People Are Going To Space. So Is Product Placement. - Folks Blogger

16.09.2021

SpaceX just sent four civilians and soon you can buy the stuff they took into orbit | Techland

16.09.2021

SpaceX just sent four civilians and soon you can buy the stuff they took into orbit - FTNewsire

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX's Inspiration4 launch and see the product launch date - TECHGZ

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement historical past – SF News

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement history | DUNRG - Latest News

16.09.2021

Rich people are going to space. So is product placement. – Dine.ga

16.09.2021

Check out the launch of SpaceX’s Inspiration4 and see the history of the launch - Mythinkings.in

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement history - Click News Point

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX's Inspiration4 launch and experience product placement history | MCUTimes

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement historical past - BVC Crypto News

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement history - Cazy Boy Tech

16.09.2021

SpaceX just sent four civilians and soon you can buy the stuff they took into orbit | 67nj

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement history - Tech Shop Store

16.09.2021

SpaceX just sent four civilians and soon you can buy the stuff they took into orbit – newssnips

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement history – Crends

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement history - KNE NEWS

16.09.2021

شاهد إطلاق SpaceX's Inspiration4 وشاهد تاريخ وضع المنتج - maplemotivation

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement history – iDea HUNTR

16.09.2021

Watch SpaceX’s Inspiration4 launch and witness product placement history – Vox.com – ColorMag Dark

17.09.2021

Rich people are going to space. So is product placement. | Best In d News

19.09.2021

Regardez le lancement d'Inspiration4 de SpaceX et assistez à l'historique du placement de produit - R1 NEWS

20.09.2021

Elon Musk donates $50 million to help SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission hit its goal - Today Topic

20.09.2021

SpaceX’s latest mission was an infomercial (for charity) - FTNewsire

20.09.2021

SpaceX’s latest mission was an infomercial (for charity) - blacktechdaily.com

20.09.2021

SpaceX’s latest mission was an infomercial (for charity)on September 20, 2021 at 3:27 pm – Techinitiates

21.09.2021

SpaceX’s latest mission was an infomercial (for charity) - 67nj

22.09.2021

Rich people are going to space. So is product placement. - Edulogg

22.09.2021

SpaceX’s latest mission was an infomercial (for charity) - incloudhosting

22.09.2021

Elon Musk has donated $ 50 million to help SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission achieve its goal - Tidingspro.in

23.09.2021

Elon Musk donated $50 million to help SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission achieve its goals – Fast reviews

23.09.2021

SpaceX’s latest mission was an infomercial (for charity) – BUBBLY

23.09.2021

Elon Musk, SpaceX'in Inspiration4 Misyonunun Hedefine Ulaşmasına Yardımcı Olmak Için 50 Milyon Dolar Bağışladı | Atmhaber.com

25.09.2021

Elon Musk donates $ 50 million to help SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission achieve its goal – SoothingSpiritNews

25.09.2021

Social Secret –Elon Musk donates $50 million to help SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission hit its goal | | Lovetoreads

25.09.2021

Elon Musk donates $50 million to help SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission hit its goal – VidTower

30.09.2021

Elon Musk donates $50 million to help SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission hit its goal - Cazy Boy Tech

04.10.2021

Elon Musk donates $50 million to help SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission hit its goal – Automated News

13.10.2021

Elon Musk donates $50 million to help SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission hit its goal - NFT Travel Gazette