Work is starting to ramp up for the team of seven Aggies building a possible prototype for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop.
The TAMU Aerospace Hyperloop team is working toward making the Hyperloop — a high-speed transportation system involving pods that will carry passengers and cargo at over 700 miles per hour through a near-vacuum tube — a reality after advancing from the design weekend competition hosted at A&M in January onto the next phase — building a scale model of the pod.
The team has spent the last six months working towards the Hyperloop design weekend, where they won best levitation system and were selected as one of the 30 out of 120 present to advance to the building phase this year.
The team started planning their design in August, but the work is now starting to ramp up even more. The team of seven is now working to build a prototype of what could be the new wave of transportation.
Christian Sotelo, aerospace engineering senior and member of TAMU Aerospace Hyperloop said the team is working on a model redesign to make the pod work for the competition, a prototype about three feet tall and 14 feet long, instead of the full-scale version they presented at the design weekend.
“We’re making everything smaller, we’re making things that might not be entirely necessary with things that are more essential for competition purposes,” Sotelo said. “However, if we were to move to another stage after that, which would involve a full-scale, then we would go back to the originals.”
Aerospace graduate student Dean Ellis said the team had a few weak areas — the braking system in particular — so they have already brought on board an electrical engineer and hope to bring on more people who have experience welding.
“We were trying to recruit people where we believe our biggest weaknesses are and that would be mostly in the electrical portion of it,” Ellis said. “That includes braking too, because braking — we cannot use anything mechanical to brake because speeds are so high.”
Sotelo said SpaceX has changed the requirements, so the team is now working to reconfigure their pod to meet the new specifications.
“Initially, it was supposed to be a tube with 1000th of a pressure of Earth, now it’s going to be one 125th — they increased the pressure eight times,” Sotelo said.
“So we’re trying to see if our design still will be able to go the speeds we said it would at that pressure.”
The prototype will be built at A&M and taken with the team to California for testing.
“Once we confirm that everything is good to go, then we’re going to start manufacturing some things, like the air bearings, which we are making ourselves,” Sotelo said. “So we have to construct them ourselves and we’ll probably start looking for actual parts to order.”
Adonios Karpetis is one of the faculty advisors for the team and said there is a different attitude among the team now. “So now it’s all hands on deck to put this together,” Karpetis said. “In that respect, we’re going to get the teams from other places — from the other teams to join us, some of the best and most interested. They’ll incorporate them and go forward.”
Sotelo said it’s a honor to have been part of an award winning team that also gets to compete at the test track in June.
“We get to present to one of the biggest companies right now in the space industry, SpaceX, and we got chosen as one of the top 30 teams in the world,” Sotelo said. “To represent our university, Texas and the Dwight College of Engineering, it’s more an honor than anything and I’m glad I can be a part of it.”