Hyperloop Competition Winner Breaks Speed Record
SpaceX hyperloop pod contest winner creates a new speed record.
SpaceX, United States
Hyperloop technologies could revolutionize the way we travel in the future. Currently, numerous companies around the world are looking into this form of super-fast ground transport. The idea is that commuters will be able to travel from A to B in floating pods within low-pressure tubes or tunnels at speeds of up to approximately 700 miles per hour. The system would use magnetic levitation for propulsion.
One of the pioneers in the field of magnetically-propelled high-speed transport is South African-born billionaire Elon Musk. His Hyperloop concept is deliberately being open-sourced to encourage innovators around the world to further develop ideas.
In 2013, he published his “alpha paper” in which he theorized that aerodynamic aluminum capsules filled with passengers or cargo could be propelled through nearly airless tubes at speeds that come close to the speed of sound. He called this the “fifth mode of transportation”.
Open Innovation Contest
One way the development of Hyperloop transport is being supported is through Space X's Hyperloop Pod Challenge. This is an open innovation contest for student teams that first launched in 2015.
Participants are challenged to design and build the best high-speed pod they can. They are judged according to one criterion which is pods reaching maximum speeds under their own propulsion with successful deceleration, i.e., no crashing. Each pod also has to pass rigorous safety checks and testing inside a 26-foot long vacuum chamber and also a 150-foot log external test track.
Three teams made it to the final of the 2018 installment of the competition which was held on the 1.25-kilometer Hyperloop test track adjacent to SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
The 2018 winner was WARR Hyperloop, a team of engineering students from the Technical University of Munich. They also won the previous two Hyperloop open innovation competitions. This time around their pod reached a top speed of more than 290 miles per hour, which was a competition record and 50% faster than their winning entry for 2017.
In the short passage of time this open innovation contest has been around significant improvements in the technology have been witnessed. In the first year, WARR Hyperloop’s winning pod reached a top speed of 58 miles per hour. Also, in the previous two competitions, pods could be assisted down the test track with the help of a SpaceX-made vehicle called a "pusher". In 2018, the pods had to be self-propelled.
The winning team’s carbon fiber pod weighed 154 pounds (70 kilograms), was powered by a 50kW electric motor and featured pneumatic friction breaks. These allowed it to break to a complete stop within five seconds.
Based on the success of this and the previous Hyperloop open innovation contests, SpaceX will host another in 2019 to continue the advancement of hyperloop technology.
“This is really the first opportunity to create a new mode of transport,” said Musk at the 2018 finals. “That’s really what this competition is about: things that could radically transform cities and the way people get around.”
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