August 17, 2017

Purdue takes collaborative Hyperloop pod to SpaceX competition

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. —Pure speed is the goal behind updates and improvements on the Purdue Hyperloop pod ready to compete in the upcoming SpaceX Hyperloop competition in California.

Team members left this week for the competition, which begins next week and ends on Sunday (Aug. 27).

The pod, while still emblazoned with the university colors, represents a new collaboration between the Purdue team and the Hyperloop team from Universitat Politecnica de Valencia in Valencia, Spain.

The Valencia team won “Top Design Concept” in a 2016 Hyperloop competition. The Purdue team manufactured a prototype pod for the most recent Hyperloop competition in January, receiving an award for Performance and Operations, and classified seventh in Design and Construction.

Both teams then decided to combine their efforts, taking the best of design plus experience in manufacturing from both projects.

Aaron Pikus, president of the Purdue Hyperloop team, said speed is the main goal for next week’s competition, prompting the teams to make the pod autonomous.

“Previously, we had no on-board propulsion,” said Pikus a first-year master’s degree student in aerospace engineering. “So, we were fully dependent on the Space X-provided propulsion that would push us down the test track.”

That propulsion, however, only let the fastest team reach 65 mph in January. To improve on that speed, Purdue and Universitat Politecnica de Valencia installed a motor system powered by batteries with the intent of reaching up to 150 mph.

The nature of the system, Pikus said, will let the team adjust the pod’s dependence on an autonomous system versus the SpaceX propulsion for the mile-long test.

Juan Vicén, a member of the team from Universitat Politecnica de Valencia, said a lightweight design and structure was used to make the Hyperloop pod as fast as possible. Even with the additional batteries and motors, the pod weight increased from 360 pounds to 550 pounds.

“We are really motivated about this,” Vicén said. “We believe it is a sign that says we can collaborate between Europe and America and do great things together. Hyperloop is a really complex project that needs this kind of collaboration.”

Design work by both universities on the Hyperloop pod involves several technologies in the pod including more than 50 sensors to monitor pressure, temperature, voltage and electrical current.

Because of summer commitments, the team consists of five Purdue students and up to 30 Universitat Politecnica de Valencia students.

This will be the second Hyperloop competition for Purdue.

In 2013, SpaceX announced the concept for the Hyperloop system, a transportation tube that might whisk commuters from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 30 minutes. The system would employ a nearly airless tunnel for passenger capsules that would be propelled at roughly the speed of sound - and at a cost far less than a proposed high-speed rail project.  

Writer: Brian L. Huchel, 765-494-2084, 

Sources: Aaron Pikus,

Juan Vicén,

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