SpaceX might not be planning to build its own Hyperloop system, but Elon Musk’s company is leading the charge in terms of speed.
Depending on who you ask, the Hyperloop train concept is either the transport of the future, or a literal pipe dream.
However, two companies and dozens of engineering teams have attempted to bring the idea to fruition.
Helping to facilitate this is SpaceX, whose founder, Elon Musk, proposed the original Hyperloop idea of an electromagnetic propelled train contained within a vacuum tube for an incredibly fast alternative to flying.
While not engaged in building the networks themselves, SpaceX has helped to build a track to test the technology as part of a competition that was recently awarded to a team from the University of Munich.
While the German team achieved a speed of 321kph, Musk posted to Instagram that SpaceX and his other company, Tesla, wanted to see how fast its pusher pod would travel down the track without pushing the students’ own pods.
We took the SpaceX/Tesla Hyperloop pusher pod for a spin by itself a few days ago to see what it could do when not pushing student pods (some need a push to get going, e.g. passive maglev). Got up to 355 km/h (220 mph) before things started ?. Kind of like racing with a tugboat. Maybe able get past 500 km/h (about half speed of sound) next month with a few tweaks or maybe tiny pieces …
China proposes its own concept
As it turned out, the pod just about trumped the winning team, achieving a top speed of 355kph.
Musk added that at that point, things began to heat up, and not in a good way – he described it as “racing in a tugboat”.
With a few tweaks, he added, the pod could reach a blistering speed of more than 500kph in as little as a month’s time.
Meanwhile, China’s national space contractor, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), said that it has begun researching what it calls a “high-speed flying train”.
According to Quartz, the train will be able to reach speeds of around 4,000kph, and follows technology similar to the Hyperloop.
Under the CASIC design, the train will also use magnetic levitation to propel itself through a near-vacuum tube.
One of the Hyperloop pods entering the test track. Image: SpaceX Hyperloop/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)