A titanium sphere designed for NASA rockets will provide the additional thrust Virginia Tech students hope will launch them into first place at the Hyperloop Competition II competition. The global competition will be held Aug. 25-27 at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California and focus on a single criterion: maximum speed.

In the upcoming Hyperloop Competition II, 24 teams will pit their pods against each other, with the help of the SpaceX pusher, that will propel each pod up to a maximum speed of about 90 -100 mph. The near-vacuum tube is approximately one mile in length and a six-foot outer diameter.

“As far as I know, we are the only team that has a cold-gas propulsion system that will work in conjunction with the pusher,” said Andrey Gubanov of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a junior majoring in computer engineering. “Our testing and modeling is showing that we’ll get from 45-60 additional miles per hour with the system.”

The cold gas system features a titanium sphere donated by team sponsor Orbital ATK that was originally made to hold cryogenic helium for NASA’s Atlas Centaur rockets. The Virginia Tech Hyperloop team will fill the sphere with more than 7,000 cubic inches of compressed nitrogen, providing about 10 seconds of additional thrust to propel the pod.

“For this event, we’ve removed our magnetic levitation system and will run on wheels,” Gubanov explained about the newly designed and machined parts. “That will save us some weight and should make us faster on this limited course."

In addition to planning for this next phase of the Hyperloop competition, Gubanov spent his summer interning with Boeing at the Ridley Park, Pennsylvania location. As part of the part of the avionics team for the Boeing V22 Osprey, Gubanov wrote software tools and preformed code tests for mission computers. 

"I think the experience of writing software tools while on my internship benefits the Hyperloop team," said Gubanov. "At Boeing, the mission computers were fairly limited and code optimization in C was heavily needed, similar to Hyperloop.”

This will be the third Hyperloop event for the Virginia Tech undergraduate team, which placed fourth overall in the inaugural design competition in early 2016. Of the 120 international teams involved in that introduction to Hyperloop, 27 built pods and brought them to SpaceX in California in January 2017 where the Hokie team placed fourth again. They won honorable mentions in three categories, including design and construction.

The Hyperloop at Virginia Tech team is co-advised by:

  • H. Pat Artis, professor of practice, Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering;
  • Robert Parker, L.S. Randolph Professor of Mechanical Engineering;
  • David Goldsmith, assistant professor of practice, Myers-Lawson School of Construction; and
  • Dewey Spangler, manager of the Joseph F. Ware Jr. Laboratory

Written by Rosaire Bushey

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