Hyperloop pod

The exterior of the pod designed by Hyperloop at Virginia Tech.

After a competition in July 2018, Hyperloop at Virginia Tech, an interdiscipline design team composed of students, has made it to the last stage of the competition at SpaceX, which will take place in the summer of 2019. Space X is a private space transportation company that was started by Elon Musk in 2002.

Among its many initiatives, SpaceX is aiming to completely revolutionize space transportation through a service called Hyperloop. SpaceX first announced a Hyperloop Pod Competition in 2015 which encouraged universities and innovators around the world to create functioning prototypes of a high-speed pod.

These pods were first envisioned by Elon Musk to be 100-foot long models capable of seating 40 passengers that would take on routes that consist of steel tubes roughly 11 feet in diameter. These routes would be in underground tunnels. The ultimate goal is to reduce traffic congested areas and air travel subject to weather delays.

The first three competitions were held in January 2016, August 2017 and July 2018. Twenty-one teams from all around the world, including India, Edinburgh, Switzerland, Australia and the United States, will be competing this summer. The guidelines for the competition are simple: Design a pod that can attain maximum speed with successful deceleration while being self-propelled.

Jesse Gisselquist, a junior in mechanical engineering, is currently the project manager for Hyperloop at Virginia Tech.

“SpaceX has a mile-long test track at their facility in Hawthorne, California. The goal of the competition is to get (the pod) traveling as fast as you can within 1 mile. This is a mechanical engineering senior design project, but we have many different types of engineers contributing to this team,” Gisselquist said. “We currently have mostly mechanical engineers on our team, but we have electrical, aerospace and industrial systems engineers on our team as well as several business majors.”

Hyperloop at Virginia Tech has an application process at the beginning of every semester. The organization allows students to connect with people from different fields as well as engineers from SpaceX and Tesla. They have been sending students to compete in the competition for the past three years, and their designs and goals have changed over time.

“In the past years our designs had to do with a gas-thrust propulsion, but this time and last year we were focusing on more of an electric propulsion where we use electric motors,” Gisselquist said. “We’ve gotten through multiple stages of this competition where SpaceX themselves evaluates our design in terms of liability and safety. We are currently entering the manufacturing stage of the pod, but we have finished our design.”

The fourth competition will take place in Hawthorne, California, this summer on July 21, 2019.

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