The Hyperloop competition and recent developments
Although Elon Musk postulated the idea, SpaceX is not developing a commercial Hyperloop of its own. Instead, it has held various competitions to encourage students and engineers to develop prototype pods. To facilitate this, SpaceX built a one mile test track in California.
The contest was a way for engineers and companies to get the ball rolling to make the Hyperloop system a reality.
On January 30, 2016, the SpaceX Hyperloop design competition concluded. More than 100 prototype pod designs were submitted, and 27 teams have won the chance to test their designs on the SpaceX Hyperloop test track in June 2016. A team of grad students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) won Best Overall Design. According to the MIT team, the pod is lightweight and emphasizes speed and safety, including a fail-safe brake system. Whereas many Hyperloop designs use air jets to levitate, the MIT design uses two arrays of neodymium magnets to keep the pod aloft. Additional magnets inside the pod keep it stable as it races along the track. The power of the prototype was impressive, though it’s still very far from a commercial product given it currently lacks space for passengers or even cargo.
In January 2017, the long-running SpaceX Hyperloop competition wrapped up with “Competition Weekend I,” in which completed pods raced on the test track. A team from Delft University in the Netherlands took the top prize.
We are very proud be the overall winner of the first hyperloop pod competition ever! Thanks everyone for the great support! pic.twitter.com/BKl5bI5iNX
— Delft Hyperloop (@DelftHyperloop) January 30, 2017
Although this particular contest is over, the Hyperloop project is far from finished, as companies and governments around the world explore the concept. For its part, SpaceX will be holding another competition from August 25-27. In HyperLoop Pod Competition II, contestants will strive to attain the highest maximum speed. SpaceX has published the list of entrants, which includes some of the teams from the first contest.
The unveiling of the Quintero One
On October, 2018, HTT showed off its first passenger capsule, dubbed Quintero One. The capsule is 105-feet long, the Quintero One weighs five tons, and is made from two layers of a material HTT calls “vibranium.” Although HTT’s vibranium isn’t a product of Wakanda, it is the “safest material on earth,” according to co-founder and CEO Dirk Ahlborn, who goes on to say that vibranium, which is a carbon fiber material lined with sensors, can “actually sense integrity” and “monitors impact.” HTT’s capsule consist of two layers of vibranium, so even if the first layer suffers damage, the capsule can survive until it reaches safety.
Bibop Gresta, chairman of HTT, says that the capsule “will be fully optimized and ready for passengers” in 2019. Gresta also emphasizes that HTT has “taken major steps in solving government regulations with our safety certification guidelines and insurance frameworks,” which suggests that the company may be close to getting a legitimate, accessible Hyperloop to consumers.
There’s no guarantee that anything concrete will come out of these competitions, though. They are a way for engineers and companies to exchange knowledge and maybe get the ball rolling to make the Hyperloop system a reality at some point down the line. Like a world’s fair expo, it’s a place for visions of the future to become a little bit clearer.