Hyperloop One’s first big propulsion test was a success

Chris Davies - May 11, 2016, 2:06 pm CDT
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Hyperloop One’s first big propulsion test was a success

The future of transportation is, according to Hyperloop One, firing you body at high speed through a pipe, and it just ran the first trial on the way there. The company – formerly known as Hyperloop Technologies – has successfully demonstrated an open-air test in North Las Vegas, Nevada, that although short is nonetheless impressive.

Hyperloop is, of course, most commonly associated with Elon Musk, founder of – among other things – Tesla and SpaceX. Musk’s proposal for a high-speed train network that could take passengers from New York City to Los Angeles in 45 minutes dropped jaws in mid-2013 when he revealed it, a system of pods that could travel at up to 4,000 mph in vacuum tubes on magnetically-suspended tracks.

The result would be “a cross between a Concorde, a rail gun, and an air hockey table,” Musk mused.

However, while the white paper the outspoken inventor released was detailed, Musk himself said that none of his companies would actually be building a Hyperloop. Instead, he threw the idea open to third-party firms to experiment with.

One of those is Hyperloop One, though it’s a long, long way from transporting passengers cross-country. Today’s trial – dubbed a “propulsion open-air test” – saw an unmanned sled move down a short length of track at approximately 300 mph, and then land in a pit of sand.

A photo posted by HyperloopOne (@hyperloopone) on

Pencilled in for Q4 2016, however, is what the company is describing as its “Kitty Hawk” moment – a reference to the Wright Brother’s first flight – where it plans to run a full-scale test track. Expected to be more than two miles of low-pressure tube, the pod inside should run at over 700 mph if all goes as planned.

Even if the system scales as Hyperloop One expects it to, human passengers may not be welcome, at least initially. The company is looking to cargo transportation as the most likely use for a commercial Hyperloop system – presumably because boxes and crates are less fragile than families – with interest already from a number of countries in a potential logistics system that would run through tubes and underground tunnels.

No point lining up for train tickets quite yet, therefore, but it’s another step closer to what’s shaping up to be one of the more interesting “future of transportation” possibilities out there.


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