It is inviting teams to come up with pod designs for the conceptual Hyperloop system and will build a 1.6km test track to enable them to be tested.
SpaceX came up with the idea for the Hyperloop system back in 2013 and a handful of private companies are now pursuing the effort. Pressurised capsules would ride in tubes on an air cushion driven by linear induction motors and air compressors. The hope is that near supersonic speeds could be achieved.
Neither SpaceX nor its CEO Elon Musk is affiliated with any Hyperloop companies but they are keen to see progress made. "While we are not developing a commercial Hyperloop ourselves, we are interested in helping to accelerate development of a functional Hyperloop prototype," said a company statement. "For this reason, SpaceX is announcing an open competition, geared towards university students and independent engineering teams, to design and build the best Hyperloop pod."
To support this competition, SpaceX will construct a one-mile test track adjacent to its California headquarters. Teams will be able to test their human-scale pods during a competition weekend at the track, currently targeted for June 2016. The knowledge gained will continue to be open-sourced.
A pdf with details of the competition can be downloaded from SpaceX (link opens in new tab).