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Space Transportation Businesses Technology Hardware Science

SpaceX Is Building a Hyperloop Test Track Near Los Angeles (techcrunch.com) 125

An anonymous reader writes from a report via TechCrunch: SpaceX appears to be hard at work building its Hyperloop test track through Hawthorne, a city in southwestern Los Angeles County, California. TechCrunch reports: "SpaceX is hosting a Hyperloop Pod Design Competition for student and engineering teams, and 23 winners were selected earlier this year to build their pod prototypes and race them on the test track, a 1-mile tube capable of achieving 99.8 percent vacuum. Said track was photographed by reddit user 42finder this week (via Electrek). Pod testing would be a big step for Hyperloop technology. The two main companies competing to build the first operational Hyperloop systems, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and Hyperloop One, have yet to create pod tests. HyperloopOne has begun construction on its own test track in the Nevada desert, of course, but the SpaceX project looks considerably further along. Back when SpaceX first announced the competition, the timing of the final round which includes the actual test of final prototype pods was set for Summer 2016, but in July SpaceX announced that would slip to January of next year."
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SpaceX Is Building a Hyperloop Test Track Near Los Angeles

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  • As long as it can survive trip #2, it's all good...

    • This is what happens when you let individuals accumulate too much money. What could possibly go wrong? I want to see what insurance company steps up to cover this thing. The funniest part is that I remember these things from planet patrol back in the early 60s. This is an old sci-fi idea being turned into a dangerous reality by an eccentric billionaire.

      • by NotAPK ( 4529127 )

        "I want to see what insurance company steps up to cover this thing"

        None.

        Insurance is not a requirement for anything. If the individual has enough cash to self insure then they can do whatever they like.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Don't be so down on Elon. He's one of the most successful African-Americans in the country.

      • Eccentric billionaires taking risks are the people who get things done. NASA would never have thought of landing a rocket on its tail, and wouldn't have allowed its most adventurous engineers to try it.

        • Actually they did experiment with it, at least with VTOL planes, and they eventually gave up. They decided that not being able to see out the window while landing was an insurmountable problem.

          Now, with computer assisted landing ability and closed-circuit TV, it's an achievable reality.

        • They wouldn't have thought to land a rocket vertically? That's been depicted in science fiction since the 50's. Not to mention, they actually did have a little success with this in mid 90's with the DC-X [wikipedia.org].
          • How quickly the young whippersnappers forget.

            Everyone thought the whole vertical landing idea was hokum until those surprising first tests of the DC-X. Then unaccountably, NASA abandoned all DC-X development after the first test failure. The reason has always been a mystery.

            • I don't know, it's not that surprising. They were working toward an SSTO launch vehicle at the time. A landable rocket wasn't really needed.
          • Didn't the lunar modules land vertically? It isn't that much of an insurmountable problem...

            • "Didn't the lunar modules land vertically? It isn't that much of an insurmountable problem..."

              On an airless body there is no other way of landing a craft, and the low gravity simplifies the problem. But NASA never envisioned carrying the idea over to landing on Earth.

      • This is what happens when you let individuals accumulate too much money. What could possibly go wrong? I want to see what insurance company steps up to cover this thing. The funniest part is that I remember these things from planet patrol back in the early 60s. This is an old sci-fi idea being turned into a dangerous reality by an eccentric billionaire.

        Also this..
        https://www.amazon.com/Transat... [amazon.com]

  • I know, I'll leave the Hyperloop guys in the dust and revolutionize a specific, highly conditional transport capability.

  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @05:21AM (#52820505) Homepage

    Because it's hard to know what one means when they talk about "Hyperloop" anymore. The original Hyperloop Alpha document spelled out a very explicit concept. Then they held the student Hyperloop pod competition and the winners were absolutely nothing like what was laid out in Hyperloop Alpha.

    It comes across to me that the main point of this competition is more to drive student interest in engineering rather than to build a viable transportation alternative. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and Hyperloop One seem more focused on the latter.

    • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @05:51AM (#52820549)

      I'm thinking that it is Hyper-Hype at the moment. It's all good clean Christian fun, until one explodes on the launchpad.

    • As I understand it, the original white paper was more of a suggestion than a specification. For example, Elon suggested that air-cushion levitation would be the best method, but also acknowledged that magnetic levitation was a viable option. One of the hyperloop companies currently in development (the one that had a live test a couple of months ago) is using magnetic levitation in their design.

      I agree that this particular competition is aimed more at students, but so what? It's a cool idea that gets people

      • For example, Elon suggested that air-cushion levitation would be the best method, but also acknowledged that magnetic levitation was a viable option.

        Just out of curiosity, how would an air cushion work in a vacuum tube?

        • by HuguesT ( 84078 )

          its not a complete vacuum. At supersonic speed there is still enough air to provide some lift (also heating, compression wave, etc). Engineering fun.

          • its not a complete vacuum. At supersonic speed there is still enough air to provide some lift (also heating, compression wave, etc). Engineering fun.

            Errrr, no. As someone who's dealt with both vacuum and high-vac equipment, let me be the first to tell you that even at 800 mph there's not enough air to provide any meaningful lift or cushioning effect.

            • It would seem that Elon and his team disagree with you. OTOH, it would seem that the folks at Hyperloop One disagree with Elon, since they are using mag-lev instead.

              I reckon that's the whole point of setting up test tracks like this, to figure out what the best methodology would be. They'll have some races, eat some hot dogs, and collect a shit-load of data along the way. I think Elon is well aware that this technology is still in gestation, it's not quite ready for prime time yet, whatever H1 or HTT may sa

              • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @01:19PM (#52821787)

                You really think that shipping people at supersonic speeds in a ground-based platform of vacuum tubes is ever going to happen? Given the engineering "issues" (lol, to put it mildly) and the delicious soft-target nature of this thing, I can tell you that it's 100% pie-in-the-sky.

                Oh sure, they'll fuck around with it and burn through millions if not billions of sucker-bucks, but in reality it's never going to materialize.

                See for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

                Cool idea for sure, but it's never going to happen.

                • Yeah, I watched that video when it came out a few weeks ago. I've been subscribed to Thunderf00t's Youtube channel for several years already. If I'm not mistaken, this is his second rant on the same topic. And he brings up a lot of very salient points.

                  But I keep coming back to the same conclusion: There are hundreds of expert engineers with (cumulatively) centuries of experience among them who all agree that this is not only possible but doable. And then there's Phil Mason, a lone voice in the wilderness, s

                  • And then there's Phil Mason, a lone voice in the wilderness, saying it will never work.

                    He's not the only one, but he's one of the better known ones.

                    -

                    Pardon me if I side with the optimists on this one.

                    I think this is the triumph of hope over reason. :)

                    It would be super cool if this worked, but between the insurmountable engineering issues, the right-of-way issues, and the glaring security problems, I don't think it's ever going to happen. Minor faults (not to mention sabotage) make this thing a major death trap. It would be the juiciest target ever. Getting a decent vacuum pulled in a miles-long tube 10 or 20 feet in diameter is also a feat th

                • Sigh - this video is an embarrassment to Thunderf00t's typical level of intellectual quality and I lost a great deal of respect for him because of it. I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt and blame this abortion on him being a scientist and not an engineer, but I can't help but think it's just half-assed click bait and he's sold out his integrity for views.

                  So first the whole tube thing - I guess he didn't know we have thousands of miles of natural gas pipelines that operate from 200psi to 1500
                  • So first the whole tube thing - I guess he didn't know we have thousands of miles of natural gas pipelines that operate from 200psi to 1500psi and have a lot of the same design concerns.

                    Those are pressurized lines, not vacuum lines, and many of them are below ground. Maintaining a vacuum is a completely different story than using a pressurized system. Pressurized systems are often self-sealing by nature, and they're not used to carry stuff at supersonic speeds nor do they carry passengers.

            • by Rei ( 128717 )

              It's not a high vacuum. What is hard about this for you to understand?

              • It's not a high vacuum. What is hard about this for you to understand?

                Even low to moderate vacuum doesn't contain enough air to provide the lifting or cushioning effects that this thing would require. Even the vacuum produced by a $20 Seal-A-Meal gadget would remove enough air so that lift or dynamic cushioning wouldn't be possible, even at extreme speeds.

                • by HuguesT ( 84078 )

                  Yes but you do not have to go that low in pressure. Obviously if you recreate the air pressure corresponding to 45,000 feet (10% of sea level pressure), then there is plenty of air for lift. This is altitude where the Concorde used to fly. It would be a marketing feat to call that vacuum, but this is certainly low pressure.

                • by Rei ( 128717 )

                  Question: Do airplanes work?
                  Answer: Yes!
                  Question: How high can airplanes fly?
                  Answer: The jet record is over 37 kilometers, around 4mb air pressure (4x Hyperloop).
                  Question: Was it lift that limited it, or a lack of oxygen for the engines?
                  Answer: Not even a contest - oxygen!
                  Question: Was it in ground effect?
                  Answer: Not even close!
                  Question: Can ground effect increase lift by literally orders of magnitude as you reduce the distance to the lifting surface?
                  Answer: Yes!
                  Question: How far are Hyperloop's air bearing

                  • I'll bet you US $1,000 that this it's never built and never becomes operational in any real sense. We can put the money in escrow and set a time limit of ten years on it if you like.

                    Question: How do you prevent nutjobs from shooting at all those miles of exposed vacuum tubing?
                    Answer: Errrrrrr....you don't!

                    Question: How do you handle the explosive decompression if there's an accident of any sort?
                    Answer: Errrrrrr....you don't!

                    Question: What happens when there's an earthquake?
                    Answer: California never has earth

                    • by Rei ( 128717 )

                      Question: How do you prevent nutjobs from shooting at all those miles of exposed vacuum tubing?
                      Answer: Sudden decompression is covered in the document

                      Question: How do you handle the explosive decompression if there's an accident of any sort?
                      Answer: Sudden decompression is covered in the document

                      Question: What happens when there's an earthquake?
                      Answer: Earthquakes are covered in the document

                      Question: Are there really enough people who want to go from LA to San Fran or back to make this economically feasible?

                    • Since you're so certain it's a done deal, I'll bet you US $1,000 that this it's never built and never becomes operational in any real sense. We can put the money in escrow and set a time limit of ten years on it if you like.

                    • by Rei ( 128717 )

                      I said nothing about it being "a done deal". I said that if you want to argue against a topic, you should at least know what it is before you do so. The design document can be read in an hour, is publicly available, and easy to find. I find it absurd that every bloody time that people on Slashdot want to argue against Hyperloop, they've A) never read the document, B) have posts packed with misconceptions about the very basics of even what Hyperloop is, and C) raise arguments almost entirely already addre

                    • by dave420 ( 699308 )

                      I liked how you ignored his points, made more claims covered in the documentation, and then ignored when they pointed out your claims have already been addressed in the documentation. You really showed him! You're the coolest!

                    • if you want to make an engineering argument against a project, at least read the project's bloody design document first.

                      Should I also read the design docs for a "Telepathy-Powered Perpetual Motion Machine" if Elon Musk pretends to build one of those, too?

                      Sometimes you don't need to delve deeply into the docs to know something is bullshit. I may be wrong, but I'll bet anyone $1,000 right now that I'm not.

                    • by Rei ( 128717 )

                      Right. Because "Transportation" equals "Telepathy" and "Perpetual Motion". Got it.

                      If you're a big fan of arguing about things that you don't even know the basics about, go ahead. But you're only going to make yourself look like an idiot.

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          The concept that Hyperloop Alpha was a vactrain is one of those persistent ideas that just refuses to die.

        • Just out of curiosity, how would an air cushion work in a vacuum tube?

          Shhhhh, don't point out obvious problems like this or the suckers funding it will run away.

        • Just out of curiosity, how would an air cushion work in a vacuum tube?

          All the Hyperloop designs are of course not vacuum, just low pressure, so an air cushion is physically possible.

          However, it's a good question, and Hyperloop One answered it thusly: [reddit.com]

          It does get pretty tricky to find enough air in a vacuum tube to use for air bearings. We ultimately went the maglev route for a variety of reasons but this was a big one.

          Hyperloop Transportation Technologies also went maglev instead of air cushion.

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        I don't know what you refer to when you say "Elon suggested", but the Hyperloop Alpha document argued strongly against maglev, for cost reasons and because air bearings can be even more efficient.

        It also argued strongly against a hard vacuum, and for a battery-powered compressor to prevent the accumulation of a high pressure area ahead of the vehicle. All of the competitors use either hard vacuum or do nothing to prevent pressure buildup.

        What's being discussed now is nothing like what was being discussed t

    • It lines up with what I said before: the whole thing is bullshit based on impossible-to-overcome engineering problems. It's never going to be built as it was originally laid out, and I mean never. No one is going to build an evacuated tube 100 miles long under the existing terrestrial conditions. That is simply never going to happen and I'll bet anyone $1,000 right now that it never happens.

      Some completely different and mostly impractical thing called a "Hyper-something" may be built, but it's going to be n

      • by dave420 ( 699308 )

        You're the only one talking about an evacuated tube. You seem to be arguing against some idea you have in your head, and not against what everyone else is discussing. Perplexing.

  • Like all Elon Musk companies. They need to get rockets into space, regularly, before anything else - even before trying ones that they can land and reuse. The Hyperloop stuff is just an enormous distraction, and also impractical. While it would be lovely to have hyperloops going all over the world the massive amount of capital investment in the infrastructure renders it a pipe dream.
    • That's the current trend in things, technology for technology's sake. Not to solve any real problems.
  • ... in an evacuated tube. What could possibly go wrong?

    Thanks, but I'll stick to flying to go long distance. Its bad enough being stuck in a crowded metro train thats stopped in a tunnel, but at least you could walk out if you had to. Good luck doing that in a vacuum. As for travelling at thousands of mph a few feet from the walls , no thanks Mr Musk.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A giant tinfoil bird, built to within a hair breadth of strength requirements, cruising in air too rarefied and cold to breath, tens of thousands of feet above the ocean with a couple of glorified leafblowers for engines.

      Thanks but I'll stick to walking to go long distance.

      • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

        Continuously falling forward, only to stop yourself at the last possible moment from landing on your faceby placing a foot into exactly the right spot to counterbalance your ridiculously top-heavy and unstable vertical stance?

        Thanks, but I'll stick to sitting in my chair and eating Cheetos.

        • by Raenex ( 947668 )

          Shoveling food into your mouth, relying on a split-second mechanism to prevent food from entering the wrong pipe and choking you to death? Thanks, but I'll stick to uploading my consciousness to the Internet.

  • I am participating and using a NASA-designed EmDrive built by NASA scientists. It can theoretically go to 1c with no external power. We proved this in our NASA tests with NASA scientists. Once we deploy our NASA EmDrive we will unlock the power of the Hyperloop and you can travel from NYC to Los Angeles in under 10 minutes.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      I am participating and using a NASA-designed EmDrive built by NASA scientists. It can theoretically go to 1c with no external power. Once we deploy our NASA EmDrive we will unlock the power of the Hyperloop and you can travel from NYC to Los Angeles in under 10 minutes.

      Ten minutes? I'm working on the Biological Entity Acceledrated Motion Matter Emission Unified Program and our chief engineer Scotty tells me we can do it in a few seconds. Unless the plot requires that we can't.

  • It's a bit depressing the way so many otherwise intelligent people get starry-eyed about this impractical pipe dream. I get that the idea of a vacuum tube travel is awesome to think about, particularly for long distances, but the hyperloop has all kinds of issues [youtube.com] that must be overcome so that... what? So that we can travel at a measly 2x faster than existing Maglev trains on a path that's just a few hundred miles long, in a tube that is much more expensive than Maglev track and is much more vulnerable to ac
    • It's not the cost of the tube, it's the cost of putting a tube across 1000s of peoples land, crossing rivers and mountains with limited access for machinery, and all the other random things you'll find trying to cross large stretches of land. If you've already set about putting a brand new Maglev train in place; the added cost of simply enclosing it in a large tube isn't likely to be very much in the grand scheme of things.
      • If you've already set about putting a brand new Maglev train in place; the added cost of simply enclosing it in a large tube isn't likely to be very much in the grand scheme of things.

        It's all very well and good for you to say that, but if that's true then why haven't they done so? The concept of a vacuum tube train isn't a new one.

        You should watch the youtube video I linked. I'm not certain that every single one of Thunderf00t's criticisms are 100% valid, but they certainly seem plausible (and problematic) enough, and several of them had occurred to me long before I saw his video. Do you really think that 350 miles of airtight tubing at that diameter and capable of withstanding hea

      • by pakar ( 813627 )

        Actually, if you put the whole thing in a tube that you put on big posts so it floats up in the air will still allow the land below to be used for farming..

        The farmer would probably be quite happy getting paid for those small chunks of land where the posts go..

        The farmer will probably not be too happy when he realizes that the maglev train will cut his farmland in two and he will have to drive for 30 minutes to get to the other side.

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @11:05AM (#52821311)

    Apparently, the test track will be orange with banked curves and an actual loop [mattel.com].

  • by johncandale ( 1430587 ) on Saturday September 03, 2016 @01:25PM (#52821811)
    Everything seems unsafe till its proven safe. High speed ground transport is needed. And this would be much more effececit then auto cars once they get the bugs out..
    • by Raenex ( 947668 )

      If private companies want to invest in an expensive boondoggle, that's fine with me. I just hope they don't fleece taxpayers with these pipe dreams.

      You think it's practical and economical to build? Ok, but use your own money, charge a toll, and.... profit!

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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