Can you build a half-size, hypersonic passenger pod? If so, Elon Musk wants to hear from you
Elon Musk, the man behind the futuristic spaceflight company SpaceX, the futuristic electric car company Tesla and, er, the payment company PayPal, is ramping up the focus on his third futuristic transportation obsession: the Hyperloop.
Musk is setting up a competition to design a passenger pod to run in the Hyperloop, a low-pressure tube between LA and San Francisco which will use a railgun to rocket passengers between the two cities at supersonic speeds.
Two new startups have already begun working on Musk’s concept. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies is trying to build a 5-mile test track, while Hyperloop technologies is building hardware for the system .
In a statement , Musk’s company SpaceX said that “we are excited that a handful of private companies have chosen to pursue this effort … while we are not developing a commercial Hyperloop ourselves, we are interested in helping to accelerate development of a functional Hyperloop prototype.”
In order to do so, SpaceX is planning to set up a competition to reward the development of those pods – using its own test-track, announced in January – holding pod races for competing teams. The contest will be geared towards university students and independent engineering teams, who will be tasked with building half-scale passenger pods.
Groups that want to join in will have to do so by September 2015, with the first “design weekend” being held in January 2016. The finished race will be held in June 2016.
Musk first proposed the system in 2013, in a 57-page document which he described as an “open-source transportation concept”. The idea was to build the system on concrete pylons mounted in the central reservation of the interstate between the two cities, terminating in their outskirts.
The proposal was quickly criticised by experts in the field , who questioned Musk’s figures on the cost of land by a highway, the price of concrete, and the thermal expansion of steel. But in the following years multiple companies picked up Musk’s concept and developed it further.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2015