SpaceX Launches Hyperloop Contest That Will Culminate In Real Life, One Mile Test Track

Elon Musk has some pretty grand ideas and a ton of money, but he doesn't want to build a Hyperloop without some public contribution. In a plan that sounds a bit like a reality show, his rocket launch company, SpaceX, is holding a contest, challenging students and engineers to build passenger pods.

"People could compete, say, who could make the pod go the fastest, and maybe compete on other dimensions. I think that could be pretty fun," Musk said, according to NBC News.

It sounds like a lot more fun when you realize that no humans will be harmed in the building and testing of these passenger pods during the contest. In the open-source competition, SpaceX will ask university students and independent engineering firms to build half-scale pods. The design specs that should govern these pods will be released in August.

Elon proposed the sci-fi Hyperloop in 2013. If built, the transport system would launch people between cities at almost 800 miles per hour -- faster than planes. In his mind, this is done via a tube, and the people inside transferred -- hopefully smoothly -- by high-pressure air from the front and back, the New York Times reported.

As CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, Musk threw his idea, the design, and building out into the open, meaning any company -- like Hyperloop Transportation Technologies -- could take a crack at making it work. The "SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition" seems to be the first step in turning Elon's fantasies into the real thing.

SpaceX has no interest in actually building the Hyperloop itself, just a prototype. But it will build a test track (also half scale) for the contest, about a mile long and near SpaceX headquarters.

Those who'd like to enter the SpaceX contest have until September to do so, and they have to finish their designs by December, CNET added. The awesome conclusion to the contest will take place next summer when the pods are tested against each other.

Students and engineers have a few wrinkles to iron out in Elon's idea and are expected to give some answers in their design -- like safety mechanisms, tube breaches, communication issues, airflow, and motors, which are needed to shoot the tubes through the track.

That's no small feat, nor are the other unsettled matters surrounding the innovative transportation system, like tube construction, compressors, pressure maintenance, transit stations, pricing, and system amenities.

Whether or not the Hyperloop becomes a reality, the sheer fact that the best and brightest will be putting their brains to battle each other in the SpaceX contest will be fun enough.

And we will certainly be waiting for the accompanying reality show to air the contest.

[Photo Courtesy Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]