Our Competition II pod is 20 feet long and weighs 2000 pounds. It's designed to travel at 200 mph in SpaceX's mile-long hyperloop test track in Hawthorne, California. It consists of a number of highly integrated subsystems that work together to reach this goal.
The air supply system is custom designed and built with redundancy and safety in mind. The system is comprised of eight scuba tanks linked together by a common manifold. The system is regulated down using four regulators providing enough flow to test hundreds of levitation concepts. Flow into the skate chambers is controlled by proportional valves and the system is monitored through a number of sensors and thermocouples.
Air bearings are the core technology we developed for Competition II. While air bearings are already utilized in low speed industrial applications, they've never been explored in high-speed contexts. Low-friction levitation is critical to the hyperloop concept and our air bearings reduce the force necessary to propel our pod by 80%.
Two brake modules use air-actuated cylinders to press performance brake pads onto the aluminum rail that runs the length of the tube. The brakes provide a combined 4-ton clamping force, safely decelerating the pod to a stop. A precision linkage and elastic shock cords suspend each brake from the rest of the vehicle so as to isolate the pod from impulses from the rail. Pressure transducers, thermocouples, and proximity sensors allow the pod to monitor braking pressure, pad temperature, and pad extension in real time.
When traveling down the "hypertube", it is critical to keep the pod centered on the I-beam rail running down the center of the track. Keeping the pod centered ensures that no systems interfere with the rail unexpectedly.
Carbon Fiber Shell
The pod's frame is concealed by an aerodynamic shell made of dual sided carbon fiber with an aluminum honeycomb core. It is designed to be both strong and lightweight, weighing in at less than 100 pounds. The shell was manufactured by students from the University of Michigan as part of the OpenLoop project.
Our controls system ensures that passengers and cargo experience the smoothest and safest journey possible. Flow control enables dynamic tuning of the air bearing to minimize friction while extending the range of the onboard air supply. A powerful processor monitors all subsystems through a constellation of sensors, adjusting the flight profile accordingly.