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ELON MUSK REVEALS THE HYPERLOOP

Elon Musk has finally revealed his plans for the Hyperloop.

The Hyperloop is Musk’s plan for a new transportation system that’s faster and cheaper than a high-speed train.

He released a 57-page PDF that outlines his plan for the Hyperloop. That PDF is embedded below.

Here are the highlights of his plan for the Hyperloop:

Musk thinks that high-speed trains are too expensive, and too slow. He wants a system that’s faster and cheaper.

Musk says the Hyperloop is best for distances of 900 miles. Beyond 900 miles, he thinks you’re better off in a supersonic jet.

Musk shoots down previous ideas about how something like a Hyperloop could work. He says vacuum sealed tubes running on magnetics wouldn’t work because it’s too hard to vacuum seal a 700-mile tube. One leak, and you’re toast. Pneumatic tubes wouldn’t work, either, because “the friction of a 350 mile long column of air moving at anywhere near sonic velocity against the inside of the tube is so stupendously high that this is impossible for all practical purposes. ”

He proposes “a low pressure (vs. almost no pressure) system set to a level where standard commercial pumps could easily overcome an air leak and the transport pods could handle variable air density would be inherently robust.”

He wants people to sit in pods that whip through giant steel tubes. “Sealed capsules carrying 28 passengers each that travel along the interior of the tube depart on average every 2 minutes from Los Angeles or San Francisco (up to every 30 seconds during peak usage hours).”

An in-depth explanation: “Hyperloop capsules will float above the tube’s surface on an array of 28 air bearing skis that are geometrically conformed to the tube walls. The skis, each 4.9 ft (1.5 meters) in length and 3.0 ft (0.9 meters) in width, support the weight of the capsule by floating on a pressurized cushion of air 0.020 to 0.050 in. (0.5 to 1.3 mm) off the ground. Peak pressures beneath the skis need only reach 1.4 psi (9.4 kPa) to support the passenger capsule (9% of sea level atmospheric pressure). The skis depend on two mechanisms to pressurize the thin air film: external pressurization and aerodynamics.”

There is danger in his approach, because: “Whenever you have a capsule or pod (I am using the words interchangeably) moving at high speed through a tube containing air, there is a minimum tube to pod area ratio below which you will choke the flow. What this means is that if the walls of the tube and the capsule are too close together, the capsule will behave like a syringe and eventually be forced to push the entire column of air in the system. Not good. ”

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