SpaceX has announced that it will host a competition to design and build half-scale pods for Hyperloop, the supersonic rail transport system conceived by the company’s founder, Elon Musk.
The competition is aimed specifically at universities and independent engineering teams, with pods undergoing testing at the one-mile track being built at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
Inspired by Musk’s 2013 whitepaper, two startups have already begun working on commercial Hyperloop projects independently of SpaceX. Hyperloop Technologies is developing hardware for the system, while Hyperloop Transport Technologies plans to build a 5-mile test tack in Quay Valley, California, in 2016.
Although SpaceX says it is not interested in developing a commercial Hyperloop, a statement on its website claims that it is “excited that a handful of private companies have chosen to pursue this effort” and that it is “interested in helping to accelerate development of a functional Hyperloop prototype.”
The competition will keep SpaceX involved in the open source development of Hyperloop technology, while steering clear of any commercial venture. Teams must submit an initial application by September 15, indicating whether they intend to simply enter a design, or to build an actual pod. Final designs must be submitted by December 15 2015.
The next stage of the competition will then be a “design weekend”, held in January 2016, with human-scale pods taking part in a competition weekend, scheduled to take place in June 2016.
According to the initial competition guidelines, SpaceX is also interested in design ideas for individual subsystems of the pods, such as aerodynamics or safety systems. These submissions would receive design feedback, but would not be involved in the competition weekend.