Hyperloop One reveals first successful full-systems test

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The vacuum-tube linear-motor propelled transport system achieved a successful test of all its sub-systems in a simplified test in Nevada in May

Hyperloop One (H1), one of the companies developing Tesla Motors owner Elon Musk’s concept for a supersonic long-distance maglev transport technology achieved its first full-systems test two months ago, it revealed this week. The test, at the company’s facility in the Nevada desert, was not of a deployment-ready system — it involved sending a levitating test sled 315-foot (96m) along a section of tubing rather than a pod capable of carrying freight or passengers — but the vacuum, propulsion, magnetic levitation, guidance and braking systems were all integrated and tested together for the first time, and the tube used, 11ft (3.3m) in diameter, was full-size.

Hyperloop One concept pod
The 28ft-long aluminium and carbon fibre pod design for the Hyperloop One system

The sled reached a speed of 70mph (112.6km/hr) in 5.3 sec, accelerating at 2g, propelled by 100ft (30.5m) of linear motor mounted inside the tube. It’s a long way from the target speed that Hyperloop One has set for the system — 700mph (1126km/hr) — but as a first step, company founders Shervin Pineshar and Josh Giegel declared themselves delighted.

“By achieving full vacuum, we essentially invented our own sky in a tube, as if you’re flying at 200,000 feet in the air,” said Pineshar, Hyperloop One’s executive chairman. Engineering director Giegel added: “This is integrating all of the pieces. It’s the first phase of a test program that will get us to a production unit.”

Hyperloop One is not the only company developing systems, which were proposed by Musk in 2015 but which he decided not to develop himself; two others, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and Arrivo, are also at work, but H1 is the first to demonstrate a full-sized vacuum tube.

H1 also unveiled its initial design for a transit pod, made from aluminium and carbon fibre and 28ft (8.5m) long. In an interview on US news network CNBC, Giegel indicated that its next phase of tests is intended to take its sled up to 250mph (402km/hr) in a tube with 1000ft (304m) of motors, which it has built since the May test. The vacuum system had worked better than anticipated, he added. “We expected to get down to about 0.001 of an atmosphere, but we got a lot lower than that, and that was without complicated sealing technology,” he said.

Pineshar indicated that the company hopes to build its first full-scale system and get it operational, most likely outside the US, by 2021. “We’re working closely in concert with governments around the world; there’s multiple feasibility studies. You can’t build a Hyperloop without the support of governments,” Pineshar said.