Sportswear, shoe, and clothing manufacturer, Adidas, is aiming to start testing its products in space to discover a range of previously unforeseen methods of improvement. The German apparel giant is establishing a partnership with the International Space Station (ISS) United States National Laboratory.
“The partnership was formed because of the shared focus on innovation between Adidas and the ISS U.S National Lab and our joint dedication to Open Source creation,” says Vice President of global brand strategy at Adidas, James Carnes. “The initial conversations led to the idea of maximizing the unique lab characteristics of the International Space Station, like microgravity, for product research with our background in human performance for athletes.”
The initial part of the partnership will be directed at product advancement through microgravity tests. Adidas sent a bunch of soccer balls to the ISS on a cargo run several months ago, so that the tests could be conducted to better the shape, design, and material of future soccer balls.
“The unique conditions of space provide the ideal environment to discover the unknown,” says the Vice President of Program and Partnerships of the ISS U.S National Laboratory, Christine Kretz. “For example, microgravity is the only condition in which we can observe specific experiments like the behaviour of a spinning soccer ball without interrupting airflow and external supports holding it in place. Having control of certain variables allows us to conduct tests and collect insights that aren’t possible on Earth.”
What is Adidas hoping to achieve?
The company is set to be the first brand to run improvement experiments on footwear beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Adidas is expecting to assess its Boost technology – a foam designed by the company to provide support in many of its popular shoes – while avoiding the effects of gravity, which could alter the brand’s current line and improve product development in the future.
“Beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, extreme conditions in microgravity and temperature allow for unique exploratory testing that can only be achieved in space,” Carnes explains. “This will manifest itself in technology and process innovations for how we make sneakers, advancements in apparel like compression garments, extreme temperature management of both footwear and apparel, and pioneering sustainable materials and circular processes.”
Astronauts are forced to endure intense training regimes in preparation for the unforgiving nature of space, and Adidas is aiming to advance training by evaluating the kind of environment that is necessary to get ready for travelling in space. Adidas also wants to look at muscle growth and the effects of atrophy in no-gravity conditions.
“This will have an impact on how we design and develop things like compression apparel for muscle enhancement and recovery,” said Carnes. “We are also inspired by the recent increase of women astronauts joining space programs, which could potentially enable exploration with a balanced look at specific biomechanical movements of both men and women throughout the entire journey.”