SpaceX has announced another chance for student teams from around the world to race their Hyperloop pod prototypes, with the second pod competition set to take place August 25th-27th in Hawthorne, California.
The first round of the competition started with an open field pitching design specs and concepts at Texas A&M early last year, before judges picked about two dozen to actually build and race their pods. But while SpaceX says the second round of the competition is open to new teams, the focus seems to be on giving existing squads a chance to refine their existing prototypes. The winner will be whoever hits the top speed.
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One interesting note about the announcement is that it suggests an expanded role for SpaceX in Hyperloop development. “SpaceX,” the release begins, “is revolutionizing terrestrial transportation through its Hyperloop transportation services. The company currently provides these services to innovators and universities interested in high-speed transportation technology.”
That strikes a different tone than Elon Musk took after releasing a 2013 whitepaper describing the Hyperloop concept. Musk made it clear that he was just putting the idea out there to be explored by others, since he had plenty of work on his plate at SpaceX and Tesla.
The first round of the pod competition, similarly, was broadly talked about as a bit of a lark. SpaceX wanted to chip in to give the Hyperloop ecosystem an initial push—but it was also, one SpaceX rep acknowledged to me, a great opportunity to recruit young engineering talent to work on rockets.
Since Musk’s whitepaper, though, three different startups have gotten serious about commercial Hyperloop development. While the technology is likely years away from deployment, some of those startups are already in advanced talks with locales interested in actually building Hyperlooops. While SpaceX’s Hyperloop “services” up to now have been limited to its test track and competition events, it sounds like they’re open to a larger role in the emerging market.