YOUR DREAM OF one day zipping from one city to another in a pod in a pneumatic tube just took one more step toward reality. Hyperloop One announced Wednesday that it successfully tested a full hyperloop.
The step into the future occurred in May at the company’s Nevada test track, where engineers watched a magnetically levitating test sled fire through a tube in near-vacuum, reaching 70 mph in just over five seconds.
That is but a fraction of the 700 mph or so Hyperloop One promises, but put that aside for now. What matters here is all the elements required to make hyperloop work, worked: propulsion, braking, and the levitation and vacuum systems that all but eliminate friction and air resistance so that pod shoots through the tube at maximum speed with minimal energy.
“This is integrating all of the pieces,” says Josh Giegel, Hyperloop One’s engineering chief. “It’s the first phase of a test program that will get us to a production unit.”
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Hyperloop One also revealed its design for the pod that will carry the people (or cargo) if and when this thing becomes real. The pod, made of aluminum and carbon fiber, is 28 feet long and resembles a bus.
The May test comes just about a year after Hyperloop One publicly demonstrated its propulsion system on a tube-free track. The addition of that full-scale tube—11 feet in diameter and 1600 feet long—and the engineers’ ability to suck nearly all the air out of it, is a big step, but there’s plenty left to do. For one, they need to master the airlock system that will allow pods to move into and out of the tube without wrecking that vacuum, then spending the time and energy pumping all the air back out.
And now comes the hard part.