It sounds insane: Take an enormous hamster tube, suck most of the air from it, insert a hovercraft full of humans and accelerate it to 800 miles per hour.
But according to Patricia Galloway, that wild concept is no dream -- it’s very much real.
“The feasibility is done. What we’re working on now is moving toward conceptual design,” Galloway told FoxNews.com. Thursday morning Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Inc., a new company Galloway is spearheading, came out of stealth mode to reveal if not a concrete prototype of the futuristic form of transport, at least an outline of what it will take to get there.
If the company succeeds, Hyperloops may someday replace the train and plane as a way to get between points A and B.
'This will revolutionize how we transport people from city to city.'
- Patricia Galloway, former president of the American Society of Civil Engineers
“It’s similar to what the Concorde did for air transport,” she told FoxNews.com. “This will revolutionize how we transport people from city to city.”
As detailed in an August white paper, the transportation concept by SpaceX and Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk is essentially a giant silver bullet shot down a mammoth tube at 800 miles per hour. Called Hyperloop, it would entail sleek pods that travel within low-pressure tubes that are nearly airless. The pods would hover on a cushion of air, floating above thin skis of a custom metal alloy; air sucked in through a front intake on the pod would be compressed and ejected beneath to levitate it above the metal sleeve lining the tube.
Electromagnets would then zap the craft forward at high speeds -- some would say “ludicrous speed,” in the words of the classic film “Spaceballs.”
But if anyone can do this, it’s Galloway.
The first woman president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and a former member of the U.S. National Science Board, Galloway has a remarkable history of work on giant, game-changing feats. She worked recently on a $6 billion project to expand the Panama Canal, for example, not to mention a little project to build floodgates around Venice that aim to save the city from rising ocean levels.
Oh, and that $30 billion Crossrail Project to expand London’s rail network, one of the largest projects ever tackled in Europe? Yep, you guessed it.
Galloway won’t be alone: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Inc. will be co-led by Marco Villa, former director of mission operations for SpaceX, who helped Musk jump-start the world’s first and most successfully private spaceflight company. If Hyperloop sounds like rocket science, it may have met its match: Villa actually does rocket science.
A SpaceX spokeswoman told FoxNews.com that Musk wishes the team well, but is not specifically endorsing the company.
The company also announced support from a variety of other business: on board are manufacturing and design company GloCal Network Corporation (GLOCAL) and UCLA Architecture and Urban Design’s graduate program SUPRASTUDIO, which will work on urban planning and design. There’s also ANSYS, which has run an independent analysis to verify the overall feasibility.
“We have already virtually tested an initial concept of the Hyperloop,” said Sandeep Sovani, director of automotive and ground transportation industry at ANSYS, using simulation technology used today by major manufacturers of aircraft, rockets, trains and automobiles.
Money will be necessary, of course, and right now is a sore point. Galloway and Villa are volunteering their time, and the Hyperloop Transportation Technologies company is being announced on JumpStartFund, a crowdfunding site that also helps drum up crowd ideas.
“We call it crowdstorming rather than brainstorming,” Dirk Ahlborn, CEO and co-founder of JumpStartFund, told FoxNews.com. “A lot of entrepreneurs have great business ideas but don’t have time to work on them.”
That’s where his company stepped in. Through the platform, a wealth of interested individuals and businesses have expressed interest, he said.
“Several engineering companies have contacted us and said, we have done our preliminary reviews and This seems completely doable and we don’t see any issues,” Ahlborn said.
They also hinted that larger investors were interested in the project.
According to a new timeline of planned milestones, the company will have an updated whitepaper for release by March that spells out how to build a prototype. That might come as early as the end of 2014,
“I’ve been fascinated by first-of-a-kind projects,” Galloway said.
Jeremy A. Kaplan is Science and Technology editor at FoxNews.com, where he heads up coverage of gadgets, the online world, space travel, nature, the environment, and more. Prior to joining Fox, he was executive editor of PC Magazine, co-host of the Fastest Geek competition, and a founding editor of GoodCleanTech.