Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is now gearing up his space transportation company, SpaceX, to begin developing the next step in futuristic Earth travel: the hyperloop. This design and development of the supersonic terrestrial train will also be open for a contest that is welcoming anyone to help create a design for the high-speed passenger pods. The contest ends in June 2016, with a race around a mile-long test track that will test the high tech train for its stability and design quality
In 2013, Musk borthed the idea of the hyperloop as a conglomeration of pneumatic tubes that are designed so aerodynamically efficient that supersonic speeds of over 760 miles per hour can be achieved, drastically cutting the length of travel in the continental U.S. Moreover, Musk claims that in the future, the multi-billion dollar hyperloop transportation system could ferry a load of passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in just 35 minutes, for a ticket price of $20. Such a development could challenge mass transportation in such a way as the airplane did decades ago.
Musk has said for years he has wanted to begin the process on the hyperloop project, but has had to devote a majority of his time to his positions as CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX. Though, this technology has not gone unnoticed by others. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a small tech startup venture, is currently working on a deal to construct a five-mile-long test track in California for the testing of the train. Another venture, Hyperloop Technologies, is building the actual land craft.
In a statement released by SpaceX, they explained that the company is very happy that a few private business have decided to pursue the development and testing of hyperloop technology. Furthermore, they stated SpaceX is not involved in the dealings with either company’s design, but is very interested in aiding them to quickly create a working hyperloop prototype.
Although the hyperloop pod competition is open to any private or commercial venture, Elon Musk stated SpaceX will primarily focus its backing effort on university students and small, independent engineering teams that show interest in the competition. The design for the pod will be available online in August, and will be built in half-scale to the final model. A testing date for a working prototype has yet to be set, but will most likely occur in late-2016.
Teams that wish to participate in the competition must forward their formal intent by September 15 through the SpaceX website. On January 9, a “design weekend” will be held at Texas A&M University for teams that will propose their final designs to a panel of experts from SpaceX, Tesla Motors, and other universities that will judge them on viability, practicality, and stability of design.
“People could compete, say, who could make the pod go the fastest, and maybe compete on other dimensions…I think that could be pretty fun, ” said Musk. The SpaceX CEO believes that launching the contest to design hyperloop pods will bring a better engineering force behind it than relying on just a few design and tech companies. Nonetheless, if the hyperloop system proves to be a success, a mass transportation evolution could begin in the near future.
By Alex Lemieux
LA Times: SpaceX asks students to design pods for Hyperloop
CNET: SpaceX fires up design contest for Hyperloop passenger pods
NBC News: Elon Musk’s SpaceX Plans Hyperloop Pod Races at California HQ in 2016
Photo Courtesy of JD Lasica’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Photo Courtesy of NASA Kennedy’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License