Cobra Puma Golf is currently conducting an experiment aboard the International Space Station that could eventually lead to the design and creation of better golf clubs.
How’s that for “out of the box” thinking?
The company is one of many “new and non-traditional researchers” that the Center for Advancement of Science and Space (CASIS) has been working with. According to CASIS President Gregory H. Johnson, the end goal is the “development of products, therapies, and services onboard the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory…to advance knowledge in applied materials science.”
The partnership grew out of the 2012 PGA Show in Orlando, Florida, when a few CASIS employees were first introduced to members of Cobra’s research team.
“It’s just flat-out cool,” said Mike Yagley, director of research and testing for Cobra Puma Golf, who has an aerospace background. “If you can imagine that all the stuff it’s taken to get us into space is in a golf club, from a branding standpoint I can’t see a better fit.”
More than two years of planning and preparation preceded Sunday’s launch at 1:52 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, a video of which can be seen here. The rocket successfully arrived at the International Space Station Tuesday, September 23, according to reports from CASIS.
Cobra Puma’s experiment aboard the ISS “will examine a variety of coating and metals used in golf products,” said Yagley, “and the differences in bonding, strength, and weight of the resulting materials will be analyzed in a microgravity environment.”
“Zero gravity or microgravity is a big deal for our processes because metal doesn’t settle in space the way it does on earth,” added Yagley, who compared the mixing of metals on earth to the way chocolate syrup settles in a glass of milk. The point: a uniform mixture can’t be created on earth without constant manipulation, but a microgravity environment makes it possible.
“We’re all eager to see where this takes us, especially our engineering, design and marketing departments,” said Yagley, who didn’t deride the possibility of one day creating golf clubs in space.
Cobra Puma hopes the results of the plating experiment -- which may be available as early as December -- will prove beneficial in three areas: function, durability and aesthetics. Ideally, the experiment will help identify combinations of metals that react well with each other to improve in each of these areas. There are processes used in the manufacturing of golf clubs that reduce the effects of gravity, such as centrifugal titanium casting of driver heads. If Cobra Puma sees dramatic performance improvements from the ISS experiment the next step would be figuring out how to capitalize on the research done in space here on earth. And if the results are valuable, further experiments might be conducted aboard the ISS.
“To maximize what you can do within certain boundaries, sometimes you have to step way outside them,” said Yagley.