Earlier this year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Hyperloop Team rose to the top of an applicant pool of more than 100 teams from around the country. Its task: to design a prototype for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop, a high-speed ground transport system.
Recently, MIT’s team unveiled a small prototype pod, which it will test at SpaceX’s Hyperloop Test Track this summer. The track is located in Hawthorne, Calif.
Initially, SpaceX envisioned using a cushion of air to transport the Hyperloop pod. “Air bearings, which use the same basic principle as an air hockey table, have been demonstrated to work at speeds of Mach 1.1 with very low friction,” according to the company.
However, MIT’s team uses a magnetic levitation system, which incorporates two arrays of 20 neodymium magnets to keep the pod levitating at 15 mm.
Mechanical engineering student Greg Monahan, who works with MIT’s team, told Scientific American that “One of the most interesting parts of the Hyperloop is the attempt to go significantly faster than any other type of land travel.”
At 1,236 kilometers per hour “any type of contact with the ground or a track gets really complicated from an engineering standpoint,” Monahan added.
While MIT’s design is not big enough to fit a human body, the team told BBC News that scaling up the size would be straightforward once testing of the prototype pod is completed. However, the team still needs to work out kinks regarding turning, and further test the braking system.
SpaceX isn’t the only company making leaps in the Hyperloop realm. Last week, Hyperloop One tested their propulsion system at their site in North Las Vegas. According to Fortune, the company sent a sled down a 1,000-meter track at a top speed of 116 miles per hour.
Additionally, the company announced it secured $80 million in new capital.
Hyperloop One plans to launch a full-scale test of their system in the fourth quarter of 2016.
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