It might not seem like much on the surface, but Hyperloop is hailing its 70 mph, 315-foot test run as a “Kitty Hawk moment.”
The high-speed tube transportation company, which aims to one day whisk people between cities at airline-like speeds, says it made history recently with a successful test run at its Nevada development track in May.
Shortly after midnight May 12, Hyperloop guided a wheel-mounted sled 315 feet through a vacuum tube, reaching “nearly 2Gs of acceleration” and a top speed of 70 mph as it traveled down a guideway for 5.3 seconds, the company said. The sled accelerated for about 100 feet — the length of the motor — and lifted to a glide, according to the company.
“The wheel mounts rumbled along for a second, and then the rumbling stopped as the pod lifted off the track and glided for 3 seconds before coming to a halt on its own,” Hyperloop said in a post on its website this week.
Watch the test run for yourself:
While the sled was limited to highway speeds for the initial run, the company says the next phase of testing will target speeds up to 250 mph. Since the May test, Hyperloop has built out 10 times as much motor, it says, bringing propulsion capabilities to about 1,000 feet of track. The company’s “Devloop” test track outside Las Vegas is 1,640 feet long and simulates vacuum conditions.
“By achieving full vacuum, we essentially invented our own sky in a tube, as if you’re flying at 200,000 feet in the air,” Shervin Pishevar, executive chairman of Hyperloop One, said in a news release. “For the first time in over 100 years, a new mode of transportation has been introduced. Hyperloop is real, and it’s here now.”
Hyperloop was originally envisioned by Tesla and SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk in August 2013, when he released a paper called “Hyperloop Alpha” for a revolutionary high-speed mass-transit system. In Musk’s vision, trains could reach speeds as high as 760 mph, coasting on an air cushion in steel tubes that traversed large swaths of land. The pods would be propelled by linear induction motors and air compression, and, in Musk’s vision, be a safer and lower-cost alternative to other modes of travel. As The Washington Post reported:
He claimed that the system would be safer, faster and cheaper than trains, cars, boats and supersonic planes, for distances of up to at least 900 miles, and said that it would be resistant to earthquakes and generate more energy through its solar panels than it would use.
Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One likened its May test run to the inaugural flight of the Wright Brothers over Kitty Hawk, N.C., in 1903. It remains to be seen whether being zipped through a vacuum tube becomes as ubiquitous as flying one day, but with its first test the prospect seems a bit more real.
“In this historic moment, Hyperloop One tested all the system’s components, including its highly efficient motor, vehicle suspension, magnetic levitation, electromagnetic braking, vacuum pumping system and more, proving the full system’s components operate successfully as a single integrated unit in a vacuum,” Hyperloop said.
With its announcement, the company also unveiled the more sophisticated pod it will be using for future tests. Dubbed the XP-1, the 28-foot aluminum and carbon fiber pod will simulate transporting passengers and cargo through Hyperloop’s network of high-speed tubes.