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The Hyperloop Race: From Ultra-High-Speed Transportation to Missile and Satellite Launches

The rail industry is increasingly embracing technology. Concepts such as automated, maglev and high-speed trains are now becoming a reality. One futuristic concept is the Hyperloop – an ultra-high-speed ground transportation system akin to bullet trains – developed by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

 

The concept of the Hyperloop was first proposed by Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, in 2013. The idea is to build a system of tubes, in which pods carrying passengers or cargo would travel at high speeds. The pods would be propelled by magnetic levitation and would travel through a vacuum, which would eliminate air resistance and reduce friction. The result would be an ultra-fast, energy-efficient mode of transportation.

 

Some critics have described it as science fiction. It is based on the world’s fastest magnetic levitation (maglev) trains, then made faster by speeding along inside vacuum tubes. The Maglev train speed world record was set in 2015 when a Japanese train reached 374mph in a test run near Mount Fuji.

 

In Hyperloop,  the pods carrying passengers travel through tubes or tunnels from which most of the air has been removed to reduce friction. The hyperloop capsules levitate on pressurised air generated by compressors under the vehicles. The capsules are driven forward by powerful magnetic fields generated by linear induction motors along the track. The low pressure minimises friction and air resistance, therefore reducing the power needed and allowing the ultra-high-speed hovertrain (over 1,000km/h)  to take minutes rather than hours to reach a destination. In addition, since the pods travel in a tube, they are not subject to shutdowns due to harsh weather, such as snow or polar vortexes.

 

Supporters argue that Hyperloop could be cheaper and faster than train or car travel, and cheaper and less polluting than air travel. They claim that it’s also quicker and cheaper to build than traditional high-speed rail. Hyperloop could therefore be used to take the pressure off gridlocked roads, making travel between cities easier, and potentially unlocking major economic benefits as a result.

 

In a panel session with the US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, HyperloopTT CEO Andrés de León made the case for hyperloop systems. Mr. De León emphasized key advantages of hyperloop in his testimony, including:

  • HyperloopTT systems are ready to be built utilizing existing technologies alongside over 50 transportation industry partners like Hitachi Rail, Leybold, and GNB.
  • Hyperloop is less expensive to build at $54 million per mile, significantly less than the $150 to $250 million per mile price tags of high-speed rail and MagLev.
  • Hyperloop is a sustainable next-generation technology, independent studies estimate that along a single 468-mile route a HyperloopTT system could replace the emissions of over one million cars annually.
  • The United States has an immediate opportunity to build the most innovative mode of transportation in over a century and lead a new era of sustainable innovation.

 

“The time for hyperloop is now,” said Andrés de León, CEO of HyperloopTT. “HyperloopTT and our industry colleagues have led the way for the technological, economic, environmental, and regulatory justification for the biggest breakthrough in transportation in a century.”

 

The Hyperloop, a futuristic transportation system that promises to revolutionize the way we travel, has been in development for several years now. With its ultra-high-speed capabilities, the Hyperloop has the potential to reduce travel times between major cities to mere minutes. But what many people don’t know is that this technology is not just being developed for transportation purposes. The Hyperloop is also being explored for its potential use in missile and satellite launches.

For deeper understanding of Hyperloop technologies and applications please visit: Hyperloop Chronicles: Unveiling the Future of Transportation

Challenges

The Hyperloop is still a theoretical transportation system, and it has never been tested with human passengers at high speeds. There are a number of challenges that need to be overcome before the Hyperloop can be widely adopted, such as safety, cost, and reliability.

The Hyperloop is a complex technology that presents a number of technical and logistical challenges that must be overcome before it can become a reality. One of the main technical challenges of the Hyperloop is maintaining a vacuum environment within the tubes. This is necessary to eliminate air resistance, which is a major factor in slowing down vehicles at high speeds. Achieving and maintaining a high-quality vacuum over long distances is difficult and requires sophisticated technologies and materials.

Critics argue that lots of pods will be required to achieve the same passenger numbers as more traditional rail, which uses much bigger carriages. And there are many engineering hurdles to overcome, like building the tubes strong enough to deal with the stresses of carrying the high-speed pods, and finding energy- and cost-efficient ways to keep them operating at low pressure.

Critics of Hyperloop have warned that travelling in the tube might be an uncomfortable experience, due to nausea-inducing acceleration, plus lateral G-force on bends in the route. However, Virgin Hyperloop One says that a journey via Hyperloop will feel about the same as riding in an elevator or a passenger plane.

The Hyperloop would need to be able to dissipate heat effectively in order to be comfortable for passengers. “Imagine sitting in an oven flying at 1,000km/h, but no wind. It won’t be very comfortable,” Zhao said. One way to do this would be to use a system of heat exchangers to transfer heat from the pods to the surrounding air. Another way to do this would be to use a system of pumps to circulate air through the pods.

Another major challenge of the Hyperloop is ensuring the safety and security of passengers and cargo. The high speeds at which the pods travel can create significant safety risks in the event of an accident or malfunction.  Furthermore, claims have previously been made that the Hyperloop is too susceptible to disruption from a power outage, or even terrorist attacks, to be considered safe.

Safety systems and protocols must be put in place to minimize risks, and the design of the pods, tubes, and other components must be carefully optimized for safety. Additionally, the security of the system must be carefully considered to prevent terrorist attacks or other security threats.

The cost of building and maintaining a Hyperloop system is another major challenge. The system requires a significant amount of investment in infrastructure, technology, and maintenance, which can be prohibitively expensive. Funding for such a large-scale project must be secured from a variety of sources, including governments, private investors, and other stakeholders. The cost of land acquisition, construction, materials, and labor can all add up quickly, making it a difficult project to finance.

The Hyperloop is a new and innovative technology that presents unique legal and regulatory challenges. Governments and other regulatory bodies must develop new frameworks for managing the safety, security, and operational aspects of the system. Additionally, intellectual property rights, liability, and insurance issues must be addressed. This can be a complex and time-consuming process that requires cooperation and coordination between many different organizations and stakeholders.

The Hyperloop requires a significant amount of infrastructure, including a network of tubes, propulsion systems, and stations. Building and maintaining this infrastructure presents logistical challenges, particularly in heavily populated areas with limited available land. Additionally, the system must be designed to integrate with existing transportation networks and logistics systems. Coordination between different transportation modes and organizations will be required to ensure smooth and efficient operations.

Overall, the Hyperloop presents a range of technical and logistical challenges that must be addressed before it can become a viable transportation system. However, with continued investment and innovation, many experts believe that these challenges can be overcome, and the Hyperloop could revolutionize the way we travel and transport goods. By addressing these challenges, the Hyperloop has the potential to become a safer, more efficient, and more sustainable mode of transportation.

 

Recent technological advancements

There have been a number of recent technological advancements in hyperloop technology. These advancements have helped to make the hyperloop more feasible and closer to commercialization.

One of the most significant advancements has been the development of new materials that can withstand the high speeds and pressures of the hyperloop. These materials include carbon fiber and ceramics. Carbon fiber is strong and lightweight, making it ideal for the construction of the hyperloop pods. Ceramics are resistant to heat and corrosion, making them ideal for the construction of the hyperloop track.

Another important advancement has been the development of new propulsion systems. These propulsion systems use a variety of technologies, such as linear motors and air bearings, to propel the hyperloop pods at high speeds.

Finally, there have been a number of advancements in the design of the hyperloop pods. These advancements have made the pods more comfortable and efficient. For example, the pods now have windows that allow passengers to see the outside world, and they have been designed to minimize noise and vibration.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies has developed safety isolation valves which can withstand forces of more than 125 tonnes. The valves are designed to isolate sections of hyperloop system tubes in case of an emergency or for maintenance. They are built by GNB KL Group and can fully open or close within 30 seconds. The full-scale valve measures 16.5 feet (5m) in height and weighs 35 tonnes. The valves provide a critical safety component for HyperloopTT systems, allowing the company to isolate portions of the track in the event of maintenance or an emergency.

These are just a few of the recent technological advancements in hyperloop technology. These advancements have helped to make the hyperloop more feasible and closer to commercialization. It is still early days for the hyperloop, but it has the potential to revolutionize transportation.

 

Race to Develop Hyperloop Systems

Several companies have indeed taken up the challenge of developing the Hyperloop, and there is a race to launch the first operational system. A race is on to see who will be the first to build this transit system, called a hyperloop, and where. Several companies have been founded to commercialize hyperloop services, one called Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and another called Hyperloop One.

One of the most well-known companies is Virgin Hyperloop, which was founded in 2014 by billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson and hyperloop pioneer Josh Giegel. Virgin Hyperloop has already completed successful test runs with human passengers on a 500-meter track in Las Vegas, Nevada, reaching speeds of up to 172 km/h (107 mph).

Another major player in the Hyperloop race is Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HyperloopTT), which was founded in 2013. HyperloopTT has developed a number of innovative technologies and materials for the Hyperloop, including a system for using solar power to generate the energy needed to power the pods. The company has also partnered with a number of governments and transportation agencies around the world to develop feasibility studies and test tracks.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s own company, The Boring Company, has been developing underground tunnels for the Hyperloop, which could be used for both transportation and launching purposes.

In addition to these two major players, there are several other companies and organizations working on Hyperloop technology. These include TransPod, a Canadian company that has developed a proprietary linear motor technology for the Hyperloop; Hardt Hyperloop, a Dutch company that has developed a unique propulsion system for the pods; and DP World Cargospeed, a joint venture between Hyperloop One (now Virgin Hyperloop) and the logistics company DP World that is focused on using the Hyperloop for cargo transportation.

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HyperloopTT) continues to make progress in the development of its Hyperloop technology. The company, which has 28 patents, has opened offices in several countries and is crowdsourcing its research and development from engineers working at top companies like NASA, Tesla, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin, as well as from the Lawrence Livermore Lab in the United States. HyperloopTT has also partnered with governments and transportation agencies worldwide to develop feasibility studies and test tracks.

In France, HyperloopTT has signed an agreement with the city of Toulouse to open a facility for the development and testing of Hyperloop-related technologies. The city is providing a 3,000-square-meter facility along with outdoor terrain at a former military airport base. The company has also been given permission to test a two-kilometer Hyperloop line inside the airport.

Meanwhile, Dutch tech startup Hardt is also making strides in the Hyperloop race. The company has built a 30-meter tunnel section in Delft, the Netherlands, that comprises all the core elements necessary for a functioning Hyperloop system. Hardt aims to conquer Europe with its vision for a Hyperloop.

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the first 10-kilometer stretch of a Hyperloop system is set to open by 2020. Virgin Hyperloop, which was founded by Richard Branson, has already completed successful test runs with human passengers on a 500-meter track in Las Vegas, reaching speeds of up to 172 km/h. However, the company’s ambitions for travel speeds of more than 1,000 km/h have not yet been achieved.

India has also shown interest in Hyperloop technology and the Indian government has been exploring the possibility of implementing the technology in the country. In 2017, the Indian state of Maharashtra signed an agreement with Virgin Hyperloop One to build a hyperloop between Mumbai and Pune. The proposed hyperloop would reduce the travel time between the two cities from over three hours to just 25 minutes.

In addition, the Indian government has launched a Global Hyperloop Pod Competition, which is aimed at encouraging student teams to design and build their own Hyperloop pods. The competition, which is open to teams from around the world, has been held annually since 2017 and has attracted participation from hundreds of teams.

India

The Indian government has also established a Hyperloop India Certification Center to certify and regulate Hyperloop technology in the country. The center is aimed at ensuring the safety and reliability of Hyperloop systems and will work with industry partners and academic institutions to develop certification standards and regulations.

Currently, the two cities witness 75 million passenger journeys between them annually – a figure that will expectedly rise to 130 million by 2026. The Hyperloop aims to undertake 150 million passenger trips annually, along with transporting lightweight cargo units.

 

https://youtu.be/LAWEOwDDt_Y

The Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop isn’t the only project in the race. US-based research company Hyperloop Transportation Technology announced plans to connect Vijayawada and Amaravati in the south-eastern coastal state of Andhra Pradesh and the project has even gone beyond the memorandum stage.

Despite the significant progress made by these companies, there are still many technical and logistical challenges that must be overcome before the Hyperloop becomes a reality. However, with continued investment and innovation, it is possible that the Hyperloop could revolutionize the way we travel and transport goods, reducing travel times and improving efficiency while also reducing carbon emissions and congestion on roads and highways.

 

China

China is making significant progress in developing its own Hyperloop technology. In 2021, the country’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) reportedly approved a proposal to build a 600-kilometer (373-mile) Hyperloop line between Chengdu and Beijing. The project, estimated to cost around $31 billion, could reduce travel time between the two cities to just two hours.

Several Chinese firms and institutes, including the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, and the China Railway Group, submitted the proposal. The project is estimated to cost around 200 billion yuan ($31 billion) and could potentially reduce the travel time between the two cities to just two hours However, it is still unclear when construction will begin or when the system will be operational. The line is expected to be operational by 2035.

Additionally, a Chinese startup, TransPod, is also developing its own Hyperloop technology and plans to build a 10-kilometer test track in the province of Guizhou. The company aims to have a fully operational system by 2025 and has already secured several partnerships and investments, including a $50 million funding round in 2019.

 

Chinese Hyperloop for possible military projects

China’s pursuit of high-speed maglev trains has taken a further step with the start of construction of a test line that can handle speeds of up to 1,000 kilometers per hour in North China’s Shanxi Province, reported in May 2021. This was the latest step by China following the commissioning of maglev trains that run at up to 620 kilometers per hour earlier this year, while other nations such as Japan and US are also ramping up efforts on the research and development (R&D) and trials of vacuum maglev trains. The high-speed maglev railway, undertaken by North University of China and the Third Research Institute at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, leverages low vacuum and magnetic suspension processes.

 

The PLA is interested in ­vacuum train technology for ­several reasons, according to Zhao a senior scinetist. Launching a missile from a vacuum tube, for instance, could reduce its fuel consumption by 60 per cent to 70 per cent, he said. That meant a missile could fly much further or carry more ­warheads. Zhao said vacuum train technology could also be used to launch fighter jets on aircraft ­carriers.

 

Some research teams were also conducting experiments to send small military satellites into orbit from a vacuum tube, he said. Another area under intensive research is to combine the ­vacuum tube with a railgun. A railgun uses electromagnetic forces to destroy a target with high energy particles and vacuum train technology may make it easier to accelerate projectiles to extremely high speeds, according to a Chinese researcher in the field.

 

Numerous research teams are developing the technology in China and some of the projects have not been disclosed to the public due to their military sensitivity, according to Zhao. “The situation is similar in the US. A major drive for the research comes from military demand,” Zhao said. One centre researching the technology in China is State Key Laboratory of Traction Power at Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu (成都) in Sichuan (四川) province.

 

Hyperloop Market

The Hyperloop Technology market with COVID-19 impact is expected to grow from USD 1.2 billion in 2021 to USD 6.6 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 40.4%. The major factors driving the growth of the Hyperloop Technology market are decreased travel time and transport costs. less expensive and minimum infrastructural maintenance, creation of hyperloop network requires less land area, tolerance to earthquakes and other natural calamities and emphasis on solar power for energy consumption in the hyperloop transportation technology.

 

However, lack of awareness regarding hyperloop transportation technology, regulation not yet implemented for hyperloop transportation technology by governments and bureaucrats and safety and security concerns is expected to restrain the growth of the market.

 

Key Market Drivers

Low cost Fare

  • Although the speed of hyperloop trains is equivalent to that of aircraft and bullet trains, their cost is comparably extremely cheap, which may increase customer interest in them. The combination of low cost and lightning-fast speeds may make hyperloop trains one of the most popular transit choices for future generations, potentially altering the face of the transportation industry. In addition, the hyperloop technology reduces noise and traffic congestion, and its network uses less space than traditional forms of transportation. Additionally, because it is built on pylons and has passenger pod tubes that are elevated above the ground, it is resilient to earthquakes and other natural disasters.

The rise in demand for faster transportation

  • The market for hyperloop technology is expanding as a result of the growing need for speedier modes of transportation. The Hyperloop system consists of pressurized vehicles, usually known as pods, that can move at high speeds, as well as sealed and partially evacuated tubes that link mobility hubs in sizable urban areas. This is made feasible by technologies of contactless levitation and propulsion as well as reduced aerodynamic drag. This hyperloop technology enables passengers to travel between cities in less than 45 minutes at a peak speed of 760 mph. For instance, Virgin Hyperloop announced in November 2021 that the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building will host the public debut of the Pegasus passenger-carrying vehicle. Visitors will be able to see the Pegasus vehicle at the Futures show between November 2021 and July 2022. During the projected period, there will likely be a rise in demand for hyperloop technology because of the growing need for speedier means of transportation.

Key Market Challenges

Safety and security concerns

  • One of the main issues for the commercial expansion of the hyperloop train is the safety and security of the passengers. The new hyperloop train technology allows for elevated movement at speeds of up to 650 miles per hour within a tube with low air pressure. Hyperloop trains bear no similarity to any of the traditional modes of transportation, unlike bullets and aircraft, which have historical predecessors in the shape of ordinary trains or commercial jets. The existence of the hyperloop trains is still disputed. After the first hyperloop train is put into service, the government and many financial investors will have greater faith in the technology. To speed up the development, organizations like Virgin Hyperloop One and HTT are now conducting trials.

Key Market Opportunities

Support from several governments

  • This sector is mostly driven by support from various governments. For instance, Slovakia and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies recently signed a deal to implement the idea in Europe, linking the capital city of Bratislava with the cities of Vienna in Austria and Budapest in Hungary. If everything works well, it would only take 8 minutes to go from Vienna to Bratislava and 10 minutes to get from Budapest to Bratislava. These two trips presently take one hour and two hours, respectively, in a vehicle. These large time savings is anticipated to spur investment in the idea of the hyperloop train in numerous other European nations, increasing demand in the market for the same.
  • A five-mile test track in Quay Valley is now being approved by the state of California in the United States, and the building is scheduled to start in 2017. On the other hand, the idea of a hyperloop train has not yet been implemented, and its business plan is still in the works. Additionally, the exorbitant cost of construction is delaying the global hyperloop market’s ability to reach its full potential.

Increase in the R&D

  • Investments in R&D and testing are a significant trend that is becoming more and more popular in the hyperloop technology sector. The firms creating hyperloop technology items are expanding their investments in the creation of cutting-edge technology with excellent operational potential and in the testing of produced products before they are put into production. For instance, in April 2022, China-East Resources Import and Export Company and Broughton Capital Group of the UK each contributed $550 million to TransPod, a Canadian developer of hyper technology, to be utilized for the project’s development.

 

Regional Insights

Due to the existence of well-known hyperloop technology providers like Hyperloop Technologies, North America has a sizable market share. Virgin’s first and second Hyperloops. In the early adoption of the hyperloop train industry, North America emerged as the main area due to increased R&D spending and technical improvement. As a result, North America is delaying its ascent to the top of the market. The major companies in this area are concentrating on a strategy of partnership to increase their capacity for manufacturing. For instance, in June 2019, Virgin Hyperloop One collaborated with Washington University in St. Louis’ Sam Fox School of Designs and Visual Arts. The objective is to introduce hyperloop technology to Missouri and to continue investigating several designs for the Missouri hyperloop train.

 

The world’s fastest-growing region is Asia Pacific. The government agencies’ increasing interest in determining if hyperloop technology trains are feasible is expected to boost market expansion. Australia, India and South Korea are countries that have already signed MoUs with hyperloop companies and are working on the commercialization phase.

 

For instance, in July 2019, Virgin Hyperloop One and the Maharashtra government signed a memorandum of understanding to build a hyperloop rail system connecting Mumbai and Pune in India. The objective is to provide end users with the fastest and most affordable form of transportation possible. As a result, the Asia Pacific region is anticipated to become a significant market contributor in the future.

 

The Hyperloop Technology market was dominated by Virgin Hyperloop (US), Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (US), Hardt B.V. (Netherlands), TRANSPOD (Canada), and Zeleros (Spain).

 

 

References and Resources also include:

https://www.railway-technology.com/features/will-india-be-the-first-to-see-a-hyperloop-one-train-in-action/

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/1946676/beyond-hyperloop-chinese-scientists-board-vacuum-train

https://highways-news.com/hyperloop-breakthrough-with-design-of-new-safety-valves/

https://www.precedenceresearch.com/hyperloop-train-market

 

About Rajesh Uppal

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