Elon Musk’s SpaceX is sponsoring an open competition, geared toward university students and independent engineering teams, to design and build pods for the Hyperloop, his futuristic transit system.
A one-mile test track will be built adjacent to SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, the company said Monday on its website.
“While we are not developing a commercial Hyperloop ourselves, we are interested in helping to accelerate development of a functional Hyperloop prototype,” SpaceX said. The knowledge gained will be open-sourced, the company said.
Musk, SpaceX’s founder and chief executive officer, first revealed plans for the Hyperloop in a 2013 white paper that he released on the SpaceX website. Musk tweeted that he “pulled an all-nighter” to complete the 57-page paper, titled “Hyperloop Alpha,” which details a transit system consisting of low-pressure steel tubes with aluminum capsules or pods, supported on a cushion of air, and capable of speeds in excess of 700 miles per hour (1,100 kph).
Musk has said part of the inspiration for the Hyperloop came from his dismay by California’s plans for a high-speed rail system. The Hyperloop would move people from San Francisco to Los Angeles in half an hour.
“How could it be that the home of Silicon Valley and JPL –- doing incredible things like indexing all the world’s knowledge and putting rovers on Mars -– would build a bullet train that is both one of the most expensive per mile and one of the slowest in the world?” Musk wrote in the 2013 paper.
The Hyperloop idea has intrigued transit experts, inspired countless engineers and spawned several imitators that neither Musk nor SpaceX is affiliated with. The SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition is the only official Hyperloop activity affiliated with Musk and SpaceX.
Teams will be able to test their human-scale pods during a competition weekend planned for June 2016.
Musk, 43, founded SpaceX in 2002 with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. Once considered a long-shot startup, the company has grown to more than 4,000 employees and was recently certified by the U.S. Air Force to compete for military launches.
Directors of the closely held company include Musk, SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell, Antonio Gracias of Valor Equity Partners, Steve Jurvetson of Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Luke Nosek of Founders Fund. SpaceX in January raised $1 billion from Google Inc. and Fidelity Investments.