After months of preparations, a global roster of student-formed teams have readied their Hyperloop pods and made their way to Hawthorne, California in anticipation of SpaceX’s upcoming Hyperloop Competition Weekend 2, scheduled for August 25-27, 2017.
The first competition, hosted in January 2017, saw Hyperloop visionary Elon Musk test fit himself inside a concept pod, along with an array of groups trial their very first attempts at launching roller-based and magnetically-levitating Hyperloop pods in SpaceX’s Hyperloop test track. The track itself is approximately six feet wide and a mile long. It features prominently in front of SpaceX’s “Rocket Factory”, where Falcon 9 and its many components are manufactured and refurbished.
During the first competition, teams managed a top speed of approximately 100 km/h, which Hyperloop One has since beaten at their own private test track, located north of Las Vegas, Nevada. While only 500 meters or a third of a mile long, the company managed to reach a speed of 192 mph, or 309 km/h. The main difference between the DevLoop and SpaceX’s test track is that DevLoop is twice as large, with a diameter of 12 feet. It is large enough that its test pods could likely eventually hold human passengers or test pilots. Both tracks are capable of producing high quality vacuum conditions. As a result, while SpaceX’s track is not full scale, it has the potential to demonstrate considerably higher speeds.
Based on the the public competition rules, it appears that SpaceX will continue to use their own electric pod truck to accelerate the pods before they are released to travel on their own. For teams that wish to develop their own methods of propulsion, SpaceX appears to be open to proposals that use magnetic levitation and acceleration. Hyperloop One’s test pod, on the other hand, specifically relies on the technologies discussed in Musk’s original Hyperloop Alpha white paper, with a system of linear electric motors inside the pod and static components located in the track. This technology is explained below.
Ultimately, SpaceX’s second Hyperloop competition will see some of the world’s best engineering students apply their studies to the creation of a potentially revolutionary technology. It is no coincidence that the second competition now only allows enrolled students to form teams, and both SpaceX and The Boring Company will undoubtedly be paying close attention and scouring the competitive field for potential future employees of both companies.
The Boring Company is now known to be pursuing vacuum trains themselves, and the teams that compete and win at Friday’s competition could one day form the team that develops the first commercial Hyperloop route. In the meantime, its even a possibility that TBC’s planned 2 mile tunnel under Hawthorne could eventually become the test track for future Hyperloop competitions. Regardless, stay tuned!