Three teams come up tops at SpaceX Hyperloop competition

30 Jan 2017

Hyperloop concept. Image: u3d/Shutterstock

With at least a year of development behind them, three universities have finally been able to test their Hyperloop pod designs on SpaceX’s specially built track, but many were not able to take part.

It has been nearly five years since Elon Musk first proposed the Hyperloop train concept, which presented the sci-fi idea of a train propelled through a vacuum tube across vast distances at blistering speeds.

Despite initial scepticism of how it could work in the real world, progress has happened at a significant pace, with private companies like Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies trying to be the first to build a working route.

One of the first spots on the globe to have a Hyperloop could be Slovakia, which aims to build tracks between Bratislava and a number of other European cities – an aim that has since moved towards becoming a real possibility.

But we will have a while to wait before that comes to fruition. SpaceX has just hosted the first competition to test a number of Hyperloop pod designs from universities across the world.

One such team came from the prestigious university MIT, and included Irishman Colm O’Rourke who led the electronics team during the pod’s design and construction.

90kph speed reached

Over the course of last weekend (27-29 January), teams from MIT, Delft University in the Netherlands, and WARR from the Technical University of Munich, demonstrated their pods on a SpaceX test track one mile (1.6km) in length.

The three teams were competing to have the best pod. The Delft University team was declared overall winner, with the best score for its design.

Meanwhile, the WARR team from Munich achieved the highest speed during testing, reaching 90kph at peak. However, this is considerably slower than the 300kph it is hoped will be achieved on a fully functional track. The MIT team – declared as the winner of the best overall design in 2016 – walked away with an award for safety and reliability for its pod.

One thing that marred the SpaceX test was the inability of all of its entrants to actually compete. According to TechCrunch, a total of 30 teams had been invited to take part. Other than the three participating teams, other participating pods were found to be incompatible with the SpaceX designed track.

There is still hope for the others this summer, as SpaceX will host another test competition with a focus on reaching the fastest speed possible.

Updated, 9.14am, 2 February 2016: The headline and text of this article has been amended to reflect that more than three teams were ready for the beginning of the SpaceX Hyperloop competition, but the SpaceX track was unable to accommodate other teams’ pods.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic