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Meet Hyperloop’s Chinese Competitor

August 31, 2017

One Chinese aerospace firm wants to blow away anything that Elon Musk has proposed with something it calls a "flying train." From Quartz:

The country’s state-run space contractor, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), announced yesterday (Aug. 30) that it has started research on a “high-speed flying train” that it says will be able to reach top speeds of 4,000 km per hour (2,485 miles per hour). That is 10 times faster than the world’s fastest bullet train (which is also in China), four times faster than commercial flights, and over three times the speed of sound (1,225 km/h).

Much like a hyperloop, CASIC's flying train would use magnetic levitation and travel through a tube that's had the air sucked out of it to reduce drag. Claims that the train will exceed Mach 3 should be met with some skepticism—no terrestrial vehicle has ever come close to that.

But in general, high-speed transit through evacuated tunnels is starting to look like it could actually work. Earlier this month, Hyperloop One (which Musk isn't involved with) managed to fire a pod through a tunnel at nearly 200 miles per hour. And late last night Musk posted on Instagram that SpaceX's own pod topped 220 mph and might try for 310 mph next month.

That's still far short of the goal Musk set when he first described the idea of a hyperloop of traveling around the speed of sound, but both Hyperloop One and SpaceX have now built prototypes and are rapidly progressing through tests. That's several steps ahead of CASIC's effort—for the moment, at least.

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