Responding to a challenge set down by Elon Musk and SpaceX, students at the Technical University of Munich have been developing a hyperloop capsule which, in testing, has proven to be the fastest so far developed. This catapults TU students to the forefront of hyperloop development, having provided decisive technical solutions in the realisation of a super-fast giant tube hyperloop capsule.
The test capsule from Munich travelled at 95 km/h, which was faster than the capsule developed by the team from the Dutch University of Delft. The next step is for the commercial users of the concept (which was proposed by the multi-entrepreneur Elon Musk) to pick up the technology solution from Munich, develop it and introduce it into the market.
The competition, which was held in California on land belonging to Elon Musk’s space company, SpaceX, was another of many milestones in the various hyperloop projects. They all deal with the basic idea of how a capsule can travel through a tube as quickly as possible and transport people or freight.
The billionaire Elon Musk proposed the basic idea in 2013 with the aim of shortening the travel time to 35 minutes for the 640 kms between the Californian cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles. This means that the capsule must be travelling at practically the speed of sound through the tube.
Initially, the idea was to connect only the two metropolises, but since then, new possibilities as potential hyperloop projects have been proposed in other parts of the world. Industry experts are already suggesting that initial applications of the technology should be for freight, since passenger safety is subject to considerable more safety requirements and tests.
The billionaire and multi-entrepreneur, Elon Musk, who is already at the forefront of the space company SpaceX and the electric sports car company Tesla, does not want to commercially develop Hyperloop itself, and prefers to remain a patron and/or project manager.
There are university and student contests, like now in California, or in the case of hyperloop booms on high-gloss images or even in practice small test sleds over test tracks in order to collect money from investors.
Many universities and companies are developing hyperloop technologies. The start-up company Hyperloop One is the world’s most commercially advanced company. Hyperloop One is already building a larger test tube system and, in May 2016, ran a test with an electromagnet drive across a small test track in the US state of Nevada. The test lasted only a few seconds and the capsule reached 160 km/h, although in the open and not in a tube, which is considerably more difficult.
Twenty-seven teams competed in the Hyperloop-SpaceX student competition but only three were allowed to test their capsules in the 1.2 km long test tube, including the Munich WARR group (“Wissenschaftlichen Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Raketentechnik und Raumfahrt”, or “scientific consortium for rocket technology and space travel”).
Photo credit: Technical University of Munich. Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from GründerSzene.