Elon Musk's private space transport company SpaceX is throwing its weight behind Musk's concept of the Hyperloop ground transport system, although it says it's not doing it to make money.
"Neither SpaceX nor Elon Musk is affiliated with any Hyperloop companies," the firm said in an online post on Monday. "While we are not developing a commercial Hyperloop ourselves, we are interested in helping to accelerate development of a functional Hyperloop prototype."
To that end, SpaceX is sponsoring a pair of competitions aimed mainly at college students who might have ideas for technologies that could be incorporated into a Hyperloop system.
SpaceX will build the Hyperloop test track itself. It will be approximately one mile long, with an interior diameter of between four and five feet, and it will be constructed adjacent to SpaceX's Hawthorne, California headquarters.
Previously, Musk has suggested Texas as the likely home for the test track, but apparently he has changed his mind.
Competition entrants will submit designs for cargo pods, subsystems, or safety features to be used on the track.
"In addition to hosting the competition, SpaceX will likely build a pod for demonstration purposes only," the company wrote in a document describing the contest. "This team will not be eligible to win."
The competition also applies to cargo only. "No human will ride in any pod or other transport device used on the test track during this competition," the contest document states.
The competition will be carried out over two weekends. The first "design weekend" in January 2016 will be for entrants to submit their designs and have them vetted by SpaceX officials. This event will be held at Texas A&M University. Approved designs will then be demoed at the Hawthorne site on the "competition weekend" in June.
Designs will be judged by a panel of engineers from both SpaceX and Musk's electric-car outfit Tesla Motors, plus some university professors.
If it all sounds a bit vague so far, that's because it is. SpaceX says it will release detailed competition rules and design guidelines in August 2015.
Prospective entrants can sign up via an online form on SpaceX's website, and all entries must be received by September 15, 2015 at 5:00pm Pacific time. ®