Progress surrounding development of the Hyperloop high-speed transport system originally proposed by Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] CEO Elon Musk took a major step forward today with a full-scale test taking place outside Las Vegas, Nevada.

Doing the testing was Hyperloop One (formerly Hyperloop Technologies), which yesterday announced it had secured $80 million in private investment to further fund its work.

Fortunately for the investors, today’s test was a success.

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It was an “open air” test that aimed to determine if Hyperloop One’s propulsion system actually works. A metal sled fitted with the undisclosed system accelerated down a test track at 2 g before crashing into a patch of sand after about 100 yards. Its final speed was close to 120 mph.

The propulsion system is one of three main components of the Hyperloop. The others are a levitation system and low-pressure tube. The latter is crucial for attaining the high speeds—upwards of 800 mph—the technology promises.

Hyperloop One concept drawing

Hyperloop One concept drawing

It’s still early days but if all goes to plan Hyperloop One hopes to have an operational system around the end of the decade. Future tests will see the sled travel on a longer stretch of track and within a low-pressure tube which will allow higher speeds to be attained.

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The company is going up against Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), which plans to build a test track for its own Hyperloop system in California's Quay Valley. HTT has previously said that its first operational system is likely to be in Europe. SpaceX is also running an open Hyperloop competition aimed primarily at students and plans to build a test track to support it at its headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

For the levitation component, Hyperloop One and HTT both plan to use magnetic levitation, or maglev for short. HTT this week said it had “exclusively licensed” a technology known as passive magnetic levitation that’s said to be cheaper and safer than current maglev systems.

It’s cheaper because it uses a lot less energy than current maglev systems, thus eliminating the need for complex energy infrastructure. And it’s safer because levitation occurs purely through movement, therefore if any type of power failure occurs, the pod carrying passengers would continue to levitate and only after reaching “minimal” speeds touch the ground.

HTT’s concept is previewed in the video below.


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