SpaceX announce Hyperloop high-speed travel pod design contest

The Hyperloop is to carry passengers at up to 750mph through a tube from Los Angeles to San Francisco - image courtesy of SpaceX
The Hyperloop is to carry passengers at up to 750mph through a tube from Los Angeles to San Francisco - image courtesy of SpaceX.

Rocket and spacecraft company SpaceX is holding a competition to design and build pods for the company’s high-speed travel 'Hyperloop'.

The ‘Hyperloop’ is a concept that SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk outlined in a white paper in 2013. It is a transport system in which a pod containing passengers travels at up to 750mph (1207.5km/h) through a tube from Los Angeles to San Francisco and vice versa.

Traditionally, if an object has to travel through a non-vacuum tube that is not much wider, the object needs to press against air within the tube. One example is when pushing the plunger of a syringe.

However, Musk’s SpaceX Hyperloop concept solves this problem by having an electric compressor fan mounted on the nose of the pod. The fan would transfer high-pressure air from the front of the vessel to the back.

The electric compressor fan would also create a cushion of air that would act as a low-friction suspension system. Thus, the pod would float on a cushion of air, which would enable it to move quickly, like the air on an air hockey table does to the puck.

The Hyperloop would have an external linear electric motor, and would be powered by solar panels on the tube.

Musk came up with the idea as a means of there being Los Angeles-San Francisco transport that is very high speed, resistant to earthquakes, self-powering, safe, convenient, cheap to run, immune to weather, and not an inconvenience to people nearby.

The Hyperloop competition

SpaceX is now holding a competition in which entrants design and build a half-scale Hyperloop pod. Entry details are available here.

As part of the competition, SpaceX will design and build a sub-scale Hyperloop test track approximately 4-5 feet wide and approximately one mile long. The entrants’ pods will be tested on this track.

SpaceX will likely build its own pod to demonstrate on the track. The team that builds this pod will be ineligible to win.

Entrants must submit their Intent to Compete in the competition by September 15, 2015, and their Final Design Packages by December 15, 2015.

On the weekend of January 9, 2016 the entrants will showcase their designs to an evaluation panel comprised mainly of SpaceX engineers, university professors, and Tesla Motors engineers.

Companies will then choose which teams to sponsor.

SpaceX says that entrants who are not interested in building a pod can still submit designs for a pod, an individual subsystem, or a safety feature. They would subsequently receive feedback.

On a weekend in June, 2016, the pods will be tested on a track.

Criteria and rules for the competition will be released in August 2015.

SpaceX is yet to announce what prize the competitions winners will receive.