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Virginia Tech Hyperloop team heads to second phase of global competition

January 20, 2017

Hyperloop at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech Hyperloop undergraduate student team members make final adjustments on the transportation pod.

The Virginia Tech Hyperloop team is making final preparations for the Jan. 27 and 28 Hyperloop competition at SpaceX headquarters.

The team of undergraduates is one of 29 teams that will test their transportation pod on SpaceX’s mile-long track. This competition is the second part of Hyperloop I and will serve as a launching point for the Hyperloop II competition to take place in the summer of 2017.

Hyperloop is a high-speed transportation system using a passenger-carrying pod in a near-vacuum tube that is envisioned to reach speeds in excess of 700 mph. 

In January 2016, the Virginia Tech Hyperloop team placed fourth and garnered a Technical Excellence Award against more than 120 teams representing many of the top universities in the world. The Hyperloop project was initiated by SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk.

Once at SpaceX, teams will have several days to test their pods in a vacuum chamber before moving the pods to the competition track at the Hawthorne, California, facility. While speeds of a true Hyperloop vehicle are estimated to be in the range of 700 mph, competition speeds will be far lower. Points will be given for speed, but the speed metric doesn’t fully outweigh other factors.

The Virginia Tech team’s original pod, Vhyper, was unveiled in September and featured a cold-gas propulsion system that was designed to achieve speeds of around 400 mph. In a re-evaluation of competition goals and lessons learned from building Vhyper, the multidisciplinary engineering team took a different approach and revised their overall plan and built a second pod they call V-17.

“We’ve learned a lot over the last year,” said Shayan Malik, team lead and a senior in mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering. “Our original expectations for speed needed to be tailored to reflect the scope of this competition. We’ve built a proof of concept and improved our original expectations.”

The V-17 pod structure is comprised of six sub-components: carbon fiber shell, electronics and controls, braking array, frame, suspension, and stability.

The new pod is 20 percent lighter, more industrial, and easier to remanufacture. The team worked to optimize controls and electronics boards. In streamlining the plans, costs were significantly reduced. The future plan for the pod will be to enhance the speed capacity by adding the propulsion back into the design.

Half of the 29-member team will hit the road on Jan. 20 and drive to California, with more team members following closer to competition time on Jan. 27 and 28.

Results from the competition are expected to be released by SpaceX on Jan. 29.

“I think top four is a reasonable expectation again,” Malik said. “But I also think no one should be surprised if we win. We won’t be.”

The Virginia Tech Hyperloop team is co-advised by H. Pat Artis, professor of practice, aerospace and ocean engineering; Robert Parker, L.S. Randolph Professor of Mechanical Engineering; David Goldsmith, assistant professor of practice, Myers Lawson School of Construction; and Dewey Spangler, manager of the Joseph F. Ware Jr. Laboratory.

For more about the Virginia Tech Hyperloop team:

Written by Rosaire Bushey

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