Tesla founder Elon Musk dreams of a levitating pod transporting people and cargo at 1,200km/h. An Australian team hopes to make his vision come true.
VicHyper, as the only finalist from the southern hemisphere for Musk’s SpaceX Hyperloop Pod competition, unveiled its prototype on Monday night at Melbourne’s RMIT University.
“Imagine living in Melbourne and working in Sydney with only a 50 minute commute, or travelling to regional Australia within minutes,” said project leader Zac McClelland.
A train trip from Melbourne to Sydney currently takes more than 11 hours, and a flight takes a scheduled 90 minutes.
The 30-strong VicHyper team, consisting entirely of RMIT students, was selected from among 1700 entries to compete in the final 30, alongside universities such as MIT and Stanford. The pod will head to California for the SpaceX Hyperloop competition, 27-29 January, 2017.
Hyperloop is Musk’s vision for rapid ground transport in the future — a network of tubes carrying pods of passengers and cargo at extreme speeds, using magnetic levitation, linear induction motors and a near-vacuum atmosphere to minimise resistance.
VicHyper, which claims it will be the first in the world to operate a linear induction motor in a vacuum, sought to differentiate itself from its rivals.
“The thing that a lot of the other teams are working is the levitation side. What we’re mainly focused on is the acceleration and braking technology, which is a big difference to what other people are doing,” McClelland told Business Insider.
The Australian team had already been recognised for its technology, winning the Braking Subsystem Technical Excellence Award at the SpaceX semi-finals last January.
McClelland told Business Insider that a test track will be built in Melbourne to put the prototype pod through its paces. Then in January’s final all eyes will be on California to see how the 30 finalists perform.
Musk’s SpaceX organisation first spruiked the idea for a hyperloop in 2013. The execution has since been “open-sourced” with companies and academic teams encouraged to contribute.
Pictures surfaced in September of SpaceX beginning construction of the first test track at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
The shell of the VicHyper pod is made of “a unique 3D woven fabric” mostly made of resin-infused carbon fibre. The team has been using virtual reality to simulate the experience of travelling in the pod.
“By developing the very first Australian Hyperloop pod prototype, the VicHyper team is helping turn science fiction into science reality. We are incredibly proud of their efforts and I wish them every success,” said RMIT vice-chancellor Martin Bean.
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