Editor’s take: So far, Musk’s dream of supersonic capsules that convey a driver and vehicle at 800 miles per hour has been somewhat disappointing. As Musk transitions to head honcho of Twitter, the decommissioning of the Hyperloop tube sitting outside his Los Angeles Space X facility indicates an abandonment of Musk’s enthusiasm for the technology — at least for now.
The Hyperloop tube running along Jack Northrop Avenue in Hawthorne, Los Angeles, is no more. The Orange County Register reports that the mile-long above-ground tunnel that has sat adjacent to the Space X campus since 2017 was dismantled and hauled away last week. Construction on a Space X employee parking lot is already underway.
The Space X tube was a boon for the local contractors that helped build it. Erik Wright, owner of Precision Construction Services in San Luis Obispo, said he was excited when his company won the bid on the project.
“The Hyperloop is quite a badge of honor for us,” Wright said. Wright admitted that the job helped his company land several other contracts. His clients expressed their confidence by saying, “If you built the Hyperloop, you can definitely build my project.”
The little-known company went on to complete high-profile jobs, including a 3D-printing lab for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several launch sites for the Vandenberg Space Force Base.
Precision Construction was not alone on the project. International infrastructure builder Aecom, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, with offices in Los Angeles, built the tunnel’s foundation and steel tube.
Wright’s company handled everything inside the tunnel, including the concrete subtrack and joints, aluminum track, and interior lighting. Wright says it was challenging work since all the components that made up the tube expanded and contracted at different rates.
The Hawthorne Hyperloop test track was one of the first completed tunnels Elon Musk envisioned would allow people and their vehicles to travel long distances at up to 800 miles per hour. So far, testing has not come anywhere close to those speeds.
Much work is still needed before capsules in tunnels can reach the sci-fi velocities that Musk imagines. So far, the fastest record achieved in unmanned tests is 288mph. Part of the problem is developing an airtight vacuum tube that can propel capsules without the worry of the friction caused by air resistance.
In typical Musk fashion, the billionaire’s interest has flitted away from Hyperloop for the time being as he devotes more energy and resources to Space X, Tesla, and his newest pet project Twitter. That is not to say Hyperloop is dead.
Fellow billionaire Richard Branson is heavily invested in Hyperloop — even splintering off a portion of the company calling it “Virgin Hyperloop.” The Nevada test track completed its first “manned” mission in 2020, sending two people hurtling down the 500m tube at 107mph. Additionally, several projects are still on the table, including tunnels in North Carolina, Abu Dhabi, France, China, and Germany.