FIFA World Cup’s high-tech balls kicked 76 miles into space aboard SpaceX rocket

Al Rihla in Arabic means "a journey," and perhaps this was one of the epic journeys of the technologically loaded football. 
Baba Tamim
FIFA World Cup official match footballs get the ultimate kick all the way to the outer space aboard SpaceX rocket.
FIFA World Cup official match footballs get the ultimate kick all the way to the outer space aboard SpaceX rocket.

Starlink 

The FIFA World Cup official match ball, Al Rihla, has been launched into space and back in a football frenzy to garner attraction to the ongoing World Cup in Qatar.

Qatar Airways teamed up with SpaceX to send two FIFA World Cup official match balls all the way to space, according to a Twitter post by the state-owned flag carrier airline on Sunday. 

"From space to the football pitch. We brought the official football for FIFA World Cup Qatar, becoming part of this historical out-of-the-world journey together with

@SpaceX and @FIFAcom," Qatar Airways Tweeted

"Thanks to @FIFAWorldCup and @QatarAirways for entrusting SpaceX and the Starlink team to fly two World Cup balls to space and back!" replied tech billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX. 

The balls flew 76 miles (123 kilometers) above Earth, the first stage, while packed inside the Falcon 9 rocket. 

Following the booster's descent back to a SpaceX droneship, the vibrant balls finished the first leg of their 800-miles (1,300 km)(800-mile) journey. 

Qatar Airways then flew the balls to Hamad International Airport, where they were handed over back to World Cup officials.

FIFA World Cup’s high-tech balls kicked 76 miles into space aboard SpaceX rocket
Qatar Airways receiving the World Cup balls to be returned to Doha.

A journey of the dream 

Al Rihla in Arabic means "a journey," and perhaps this was one of the epic journeys of technologically loaded football. 

SpaceX's flight with balls abroad was also a part of a promotion for the company's Starlink satellite internet service in the Gulf country. World Cup attendees were invited to visit the Starlink office in Doha, as per the Starlink website. 

The Adidas World Cup match balls, originally manufactured in Pakistan, are the first to use environmentally friendly water-based glues and inks. 

However, in this week's semifinals and finals, a different set of metallic gold, maroon, burgundy, and red match balls called "Al Hilm" or "the dream" is going to be used.

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"The latest technological advances in ball design, Al Hilm includes the same unprecedented Adidas 'Connected Ball' technology as Al Rihla, which has proven invaluable in helping match officials making faster and more accurate decisions during this World Cup," FIFA wrote in a press release on Sunday. 

"Al Hilm represents a beacon of light on the power of sport and football to bring the world together. Millions will tune in from almost every country around the globe, united by their passion for the game," said Nick Craggs, General Manager – Football, Adidas.

"We wish all teams involved in the final stages of the tournament the best of luck as they compete on the largest stage that football has to offer."

Not the first footballs to reach space

FIFA World Cup’s high-tech balls kicked 76 miles into space aboard SpaceX rocket
The balls were stored in a box within the Falcon 9 rocket.

The launch of the match balls was the first instance in which SpaceX used the first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket to launch a commercial payload into low-Earth orbit. 

However, they are hardly the first soccer balls, much less World Cup match balls, to be launched into space.

Before the World Cup began in Moscow in 2018, Russian cosmonauts sent an Adidas "Telstar 18" ball to the International Space Station (ISS). 

Over the course of its 74-day journey through space, the ball—which was autographed by the crew of the orbiting outpost—traveled more than 31 million miles (50 million km).

The astronauts and cosmonauts played a game of soccer aboard the space station using a different ball that had been left behind to commemorate the tournament that was taking place on Earth.

In order to be studied in the ISS National Laboratory, SpaceX transported numerous Adidas soccer balls a year later on a Dragon cargo spacecraft under contract with NASA.

The studies were conducted to learn more about the balls' flight characteristics than is conceivable in an Earth-based wind tunnel. More design flexibility for panel shape and texture was anticipated as a result of the findings.

Whatever the goals of SpaceX, Qatar Airways, and FIFA was, the launch of footballs into orbit may have united all soccer fans worldwide, even if it was just a marketing stunt.