Urban Transport

Hyperloop hits record speeds at SpaceX's 2019 Pod competition

Inside the Hyperloop test tube at SpaceX headquarters
Inside the Hyperloop test tube at SpaceX headquarters
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The winning TUM team
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The winning TUM team
A TUM team member peers inside the test tube at SpaceX headquarters
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A TUM team member peers inside the test tube at SpaceX headquarters
Inside the Hyperloop test tube at SpaceX headquarters
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Inside the Hyperloop test tube at SpaceX headquarters
The TUM team shows off its latest Hyperloop pod design
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The TUM team shows off its latest Hyperloop pod design

Now in its fourth instalment, SpaceX's Hyperloop Pod competition continues to bring out the very best in student engineering teams from all around the world, with the 2019 edition again pushing the boundaries of the experimental transport technology. The reigning champions from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) returned to fend off their challengers, setting a new speed record in the process.

The SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition is a product of Elon Musk's vision for the futuristic transport system. A fully realized Hyperloop would shuttle people and goods through near-vacuum tubes at close to the speed of sound by packing them into purpose-built capsules, and there is no shortage of people trying to make it happen.

In addition to a number of private startups working on the technology, student engineering teams all around the world are working on propulsion systems and pod designs, and each year pit them against one another at SpaceX's Hyperloop Pod Competition.

A TUM team member peers inside the test tube at SpaceX headquarters
A TUM team member peers inside the test tube at SpaceX headquarters

Like earlier instalments, the 2019 edition places an emphasis on speed. Pods must be capable of propeling themselves through the mile-long (1.6 km) test tube up to a distance of 100 ft (30 m) from its end, and then safely bring themselves to a stop.

Forty-two teams took part in this year's contest, with the team from TUM again outstripping them all. Going by the name of WARR Hyperloop last year, the team set a record at the 2018 event when pushing its pod to an official top speed of 284 mph (457 km/h). It has bested that this time around by reaching a top speed of 288 mph (463 km/h).

The winning TUM team
The winning TUM team

The target speeds of a fully developed Hyperloop system sit at around 745 mph (1,200 km/h), so there is a bit of work to do before these technologies reach that goal. Virgin Hyperloop One, one of the startups developing its own Hyperloop system, has shuttled its full-scale test pod to speeds of 387 km/h (240 mph), so it too has a some strides to take before it starts selling tickets to ride.

But Elon Musk did say in the aftermath of the competition that the 2020 edition will allow team's more space to show what they can do.

"Next year's Hyperloop competition will be in a 10-km (6.2-mi) vacuum tunnel with a curve," he tweeted.

Source: Hyperloop

5 comments
paul314
At this point, on the short track, it looks like acceleration is the main limiter for top speed. To get up to 400+ km/h and then back down again, the back of the envelope says 10-plus g's. Which means that a lot of the tech issues being dealt with may not be relevant to a "real" hyperloop.
Colt12
6.2 miles is more like it but 20 or more miles would show real time results.
paul314
To get up to 300 m/sec (1,080 kph) at 2g acceleration (which is probably the outside limit of what ordinary people would stand for a short time) is a little more than 15 seconds, or a little more than 2.25 km. At 1G it's about 4.5 km. Just btw, that means that someone in a capsule going around a bend with a radius of 10km is going to experience a centrifugal force of about 1G. So the smallest reasonably endurable test loop would be an oval with total length somewhere between 50 and 100 km. (And that turning radius definitely puts constraints on any future routes.)
ljaques
Forget vacuum. Use high-speed wind, which is much easier to produce.
dandandan
ljaques, I have been thinking the same thing about generating air flow. It would be nice to try a lower speed wind version for urban cycle commuting.