The Virgin Hyperloop has reached an important milestone: the first human passenger test

The Virgin Hyperloop has reached an important milestone: the first human passenger test

Virgin Hyperloop has announced that it is testing its high-speed mode of transport with human passengers for the first time.

The test took place Sunday afternoon on the company’s Deloitte test track in the desert outside Las Vegas, Nevada. The first two passengers were Josh Keegel, CEO and co – founder of Virgin Hyperloop, and Sarah Lucian, head of passenger experience. After the glowing white and red hyperloop bottle of the company known as Pegasus entered their seats, they were converted into an airplane as the air inside the closed vacuum tube was removed. The pod then accelerated to 100 mph (160 km / h) for the length of the route, before slowly making its way to a stop.

The vision of Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, at 760 miles (1,223 km / h) is a fact.

The Devlob test track is 500 meters long and 3.3 meters in diameter. The trail is located about 30 minutes from Las Vegas, in a desert that can be reached in minutes a day by hyperloop pods. The company claims to exist More than 400 tests were performed On that route, but with human travelers before – to this day.

“No one has come close to talking to us right now,” said Jay Walter, CEO of Virgin Hyperloop. On the edge. “It’s a full-scale, working hyperloop, it’s not going to run in a vacuum, but it’s going to get a person in it. No one is coming close to doing that.”

The Pegasus pod, also known as the XP-2, used for the first passenger test, was designed with the help of the design company of the famous Danish architect Jarke Ingels. This represents a measured version of what the Virgin Hyperloop is believed to eventually be a full-size pod capable of carrying 23 passengers. It weighs 2.5 tons and is about 15-18 feet long, Keegel says. Inside, its lush white interior should be familiar to travelers who may not be immediately comfortable with the idea of ​​making a slingshot through a vacuum-sealed tube at commercial jet speeds.

“This is not like some crazy, new complex science fiction discovery,” Louisiana said in an interview several days before the test. “It reminds me of a place I was. I’ve used it many times. It would be convenient for me to keep Grandma and send her on a trip somewhere.”

Prior to the test, Lucian said he was interested in experiencing acceleration, as well as monitoring the temperature of the pod and ventilation system. Keegel said he would like to see the security practices of the system implemented and whether they can monitor the interaction with the operators during the test. “If it’s not safe enough for me, it’s not good enough for anyone,” he said.

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Jigel said the acceleration would feel like the departure of a plane. The pod is propelled by magnetic levitation – the same technology used for bullet trains. The high-speed commercial bullet train’s fast Shanghai McLeve is circling at 300 mph.

Of course, the pod did not reach the hyperloop’s theoretical maximum speed of 760 mph. Virgin Hyperloop projects could go 670 mph on the right track – but the company’s record to date 240 miles, which hit in 2017.

“It’s going to be a little short,” Jegel said before the test. “We’ll get up to about 100 miles in an hour. After a while, we’ll accelerate, we’ll fall, it’ll be smooth. We’re not astronauts, we’re just there – we’re just sitting there.

In 2013, Musk released his version “Alpha Paper” This assumes that aerodynamic aluminum capsules filled with passengers or cargo can be propelled through an airtight tube at an air speed of 760 mph. These pipes, either raised in piles or submerged underground, can be built within or between cities. He called it the “fifth mode of transportation” and argued that it would help change the way we live, work, trade and travel. The most spectacular sight he proposed was a 30-minute trip from LA to San Francisco. Idea Captured the imagination of engineers And investors around the world.

Virgin Hyperloop was originally established as Hyperloop Technologies before changing its name. Hyperloop One in 2016 Then back to Virgin Hyperloop One Purchased by Richard Branson’s Company. The company came out of the strong gate with a multi-million dollar fund and a bold vision of hyperloop organizations around the world.

But it wasn’t always a trip to the Virgin Hyperloop. In 2017, the company sued one of its co-founders over competing allegations of harassment and sabotage. A year later, another co-founder was fired amid allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.

The company was built for money for a significant period of time. Branson helped secure a new $ 50 million investment from two existing investors, which helped pay off wage obligations. Most recently, the Virgin Hyperloop was raised Fund 172 million new fund In 2019, 90 million of which came from Dubai port operator DP World, which had previously invested 25 million in the company and already holds two positions on the board of directors.

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After that, things worked out as Keegel and his team worked diligently to test the technology through a series of tests. At the disciplinary front, things seem bright. The company recently announced its plan Create a $ 500 million certification center To improve its vision for the future of high-speed transportation in West Virginia. And there is the federal government Recently laid the framework In order to regulate the hyperloop, it gives companies like Virgin Hyperloop the confidence that it could eventually break into a full-fledged functional hyperloop system.

Reviewers Hyperloop may be technically feasible, but still only for Steam software. This is called an “Utopian view” It is financially impossible to achieve that. This is one of those technologies “Around a corner” According to its boosters – externally it looks like it will be many more years to complete yet. In 2017, top executives of the Virgin Hyperloop Said On the edge They expect “hyperloops to work around the world” by 2020. That deadline was later pushed to 2021, and they hope that year the hyperloop will be ready for human travelers.

Constantine Samaras, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, said many more safety questions need to be answered. “A hyperloop vehicle can travel much faster than a high-speed train, which can reach speeds of up to 760 mph,” Samaras said in an email. “It is very important to maintain safety at such high speeds, and all unforeseen disasters must be designed for the system. An earthquake? Vacuum pipe breaks? Does the train somehow pierce through the pipe? At such high speeds, these events increase the risk, so safety must be paramount.”

No government in the world has yet awarded a contract or approved the creation of a hyperloop system. It’s not clear how much it will cost to build the hyperloop, but of course it will be in the billions of dollars. Leaked financial documents in 2016 suggested that the Hyperloop would cost between $ 9 billion and $ 13 billion, or $ 84 million to $ 121 million per mile – significantly more than a high-speed train. Even with public funding, any company must raise millions of dollars, acquire large tracts of land, and certify that it can operate the hyperloop safely. What this means is that the hyperloop is still a long way off.

The ability to maintain a vacuum in the pipe, especially hundreds of miles in length, is another huge challenge. Every time a pod comes to a station it must be lowered and stopped. Then the plane must be closed, pressurized, and reopened. The pod must clear the plane before the next pod arrives. The speed at which this occurs will determine the distance between the pieces. Turning can also be very difficult. It takes about six miles for a hyperloop to make a 90 degree turn at 600 mph, once a Virgin Hyperloop engineer said New York Times.

Another potential obstacle is headways. In the long run, these pods will have low capacity, which may determine how effective a mass transport system in the hyperloop is. Operators may try to compensate by building larger pieces, but their pipes will require stronger steel to carry the extra weight, and this would mean higher costs.

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Walter, who runs public transportation systems in China and the United States, was most recently the head of City Bike in New York City, where he said there would be “few seconds apart” lanes in a full-scale, commercially operating hyperloop compared to 2. Minutes or more for most trains.

Lucian said he was excited if he was a little nervous. “A little nervous energy, only because I can appreciate the gravity of this moment,” he said.

He said it was important that the experience of riding in the Hyperloop was perceived as comfortable and habitual, as other ordinary people would dismiss it as a viable and safe mode of transportation. He noted that neither Gigalo nor he had received special training before or wore protective clothing like astronauts.

“Even for such an important occasion, for a technology that was a pipe dream like six seven years ago, we don’t have to do all these repetitions with experts,” he said. “We’re coming right.”

For Keegel, this experiment is the culmination of many years of hard work. It comes almost six years after he left his job as a Systems Propulsion lead at Virgin Galactics to start a hyperloop company in his garage.

“From now on I think, at this moment, this thing in the desert would not have existed if we had not put it here, it would have been a place where people could see and say, ‘It was a great idea, it was a very dangerous idea,'” he said, “but they came and they did it.” They did it successfully. “

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