Elon Musk’s white paper in 2013 on the concept of his Hyperloop above ground transport system, promising speeds of over 1000 km/h, was accompanied by plenty of hype. It has spawned a host of startups since. One of the startups has been given permission to construct a test loop in California. But if you thought ebullient Elon might step back and let others have all the fun, you would be mistaken.
Musk’s reusable rocket company SpaceX has announced it will be constructing a scaled down test track for Hyperloop itself. At less than 2 km long serious questions are being asked by commentators about scalability assuming successful results are achieved.
Never shy about taking steps to shape the future Elon Musk has also announced a design competition for Hyperloop passenger capsules. In keeping with his strategy of outsourcing the development of Hyperloop, Musk is encouraging independent engineering teams and universities to design and test half-scale models of the pods – and competition is already beginning to look stiff.
Hyperloop is essentially a high tech train in a tube with a battery-powered compressor at the front to radically reduce air pressure and friction inside the loop thus pulling the people and goods pods through at high speed. The pods will be pressurised and will float on magnetic tracks and a thin cushion of air, it will also feature electric and solar power.
The deadline for entries in the Hyperloop competition is 15 September 2015. The winners will be announced in June 2016. SpaceX has made it clear it will not be pursuing eventual commercial Hyperloop applications. Its aim is purely to facilitate and accelerate the R&D needed to make Hyperloop a reality.