If there is ever going to be a Hyperloop – that high-speed train-in-a-tube dreamed up by Elon Musk – then it will need some passenger pods to go with it. To that end, SpaceX, which has already said it will build a mile-long, test version of the unique transportation system near its Hawthorne, CA headquarters, has announced a new competition for capsules.

On its website, the rocket-launching company says it wants university and independent engineering teams to design, and perhaps build, functioning half-scale pods that could be tested at its facility. Though referred to as a "competition," there is no mention of any specific prize, and so participants shouldn't expect a winning entry to bring them fame or fortune. SpaceX itself makes pains to mention that neither it, nor its CEO Elon Musk, is affiliated with any companies working to develop an actual, operating system. And, to boot, any work on the pod design is expected to be open-source, so one couldn't expect future reward to come from patenting technology developed for the contest.

Still, we can imagine that a compelling design could command the attention of the likes of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, which is involved in trying to make such a system a reality, starting with an initial five-mile stretch. That could, possibly, lead to future contracts or employment. Certainly an argument could be made that such an endeavor would certainly look great in any engineer's project portfolio.

Would-be participants had better get a move on, however. The time scale for the contest is as ambitious as the entire concept, with entry designs to be examined this coming January and pod proving to happen a year from now. You can read the initial competition guidelines here (PDF). A more detailed set of rules, criteria, and specifications is expected to released on August 15.

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