This week SpaceX’s Hyperloop Pod competition will test 5th mode of transport

Next weekend is a major milestone for the transport and engineering industries. On January 27th -29th, 2017 (US time), Space will host ‘Competition Weekend I‘. This is the first of two...

Next weekend is a major milestone for the transport and engineering industries. On January 27th -29th, 2017 (US time), Space will host ‘Competition Weekend I‘. This is the first of two rounds of testing that will see pods developed by teams around the world, take to the 1.6km test track for the first real world test of the technology in public.

The first round will focus on the functionality and prove everything works, with the second round later in the year will focus on outright speed, a key criteria in the Hyperloop’s viability and proposed benefit over alternative forms of transportation. Hyperloop should be as reliable as trains (not effected by weather), while being as fast as flying (avoiding the lengthy boarding time).

Judging criteria
With the world watching, understanding the rules of the competition are critical to success. There’s 4 categories with a total possible points score of 2500.

Img src: SpaceX

The SpaceX Hyperloop Test Track has been constructed near the SpaceX Hawthorne, California headquarters. Teams will be able to test their human-scale pods at the track, and to benefit the development of the technology, the knowledge gained will continue to be open-sourced.

The pods are amazingly complex, not only having to overcome the challenges of passenger comfort during high-speed trip (up to 1200km/h), they also have to be energy efficient and leverage regenerative braking as well as dealing with the industrial challenges of building from materials that can withstand a pressurised environment.

The original design brief to the teams, included the following line.

In addition to hosting the competition, SpaceX will likely build a pod for demonstration purposes only. This team will not be eligible to win.

We’re not sure if SpaceX still is building their own reference pod, given the response has been extensive, still it’d be great to see what the engineering talents of SpaceX (and significant resources) could do between building rockets.

Source: Teslarati via Marco Papa

To demonstrate just how complex these builds are, here’s the questions that had to be completed for the design phase, with only successful entrants making it through to next weekend’s competition round.

1. What safety mechanisms are in place to mitigate a complete loss of pod power?
2. What safety mechanisms are necessary to mitigate a tube breach? The results should be quantified with regards to breach size, leak rate, tube pressures, and pod speed.
3. How should the ground operators communicate with the pod, especially in the case of an emergency (emergency stop command)?
4. Which sensors, if any, should be incorporated into the tube to aid navigation? How should the pod maintain accurate navigation knowledge within the tube?
5. What is the recommended pod outer mold line (OML)? Based on this OML, what is the drag on the pod as a function of speed and tube pressure?
6. If an air bearing system is used, how much surface area is needed for the footpad design? a. Specify driving pressure and flow rate needed at those required air bearing areas. b. Compare the flow rates required with practically available commercial units. c. Specify total force applied in both vertical and horizontal directions.
7. What sizing and spacing of linear motors would be required to maintain a given speed?
8. What is the steady-state temperature of the capsule as a function of speed and tube pressure?
9. What is the heat flux into the capsule as a function of speed and tube pressure?

As with all good competitions these days, they’re being shared on social media, so we get some insights into the development of the pods we’ll see next weekend.

Here’s a couple of posts from one of the teams, rLoop.

Australian-based VicHyper have wrapped up testing here and are on their way to the finals weekend.


Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.