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Elon Musk kicks off contest for sci-fi Hyperloop pod designs

SpaceX rocketSpaceX rocket
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk with the Dragon V2 rocketPhotograph by Robyn Beck — AFP/Getty Images

Elon Musk and his rocket ship company SpaceX have kicked off a competition to design passenger vehicles for the sci-fi high-speed ground transportation system known as the Hyperloop. The contest is targeted at university students.

Musk first unveiled his idea for the futuristic transportation idea in 2013, and described it as a tube that would shoot passengers at warp-speed to their destination. For example, a trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles could take less than an hour.

SpaceX and Musk aren’t planning to build a commercial Hyperloop themselves, but say they want to accelerate the development of a prototype. In a tweet on Monday, Musk clarified that the competition is meant to support a “student design competition for STEM [student, technology, engineering and math education],” and is “not trying to build Hyperloop itself.” Musk said other companies “are doing latter.”


Hyperloop Travel
An image released by Tesla Motors, is a sketch of the Hyperloop capsule with passengers onboard.Sketch by Tesla Motors/AP
Sketch by Tesla Motors/AP

Earlier this year, Musk said that he and SpaceX planned to build a Hyperloop test track. On Monday, he gave more details, saying that SpaceX would build a one-mile prototype track next to SpaceX’s facilities in Hawthorne, California.

The plan is for contestants in the design competition to test their life-sized Hyperloop pod designs on the prototype track next summer. Designs submitted in the competition and other information will be made publicly available.

Contestants must apply to enter the competition by September 15 2015. There’s no word on whether there will be prizes for the winners, beyond bragging rights.

While Musk won’t be commercializing the Hyperloop, there’s a handful of companies that actually are trying to turn the Hyperloop into a business reality. Musk not only runs SpaceX and electric car company Tesla, but he’s also the chairman of solar company SolarCity.