By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Two years after unveiling plans for a futuristic, high-speed Hyperloop transportation system, technology entrepreneur Elon Musk announced plans for building a test track in southern California and a competition for prototype pods, documents obtained by Reuters show.
As described in Musk's 57-page white paper, the solar-powered Hyperloop would shoot passengers in enclosed capsules through low-pressure steel tubes at up to 800 mph (1,288 kph).
Several companies subsequently announced plans for pilot projects in California, Texas and other locations, but Musk and his companies, which include privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, and Tesla Motors Inc electric car company, were not involved.
On Monday, however, SpaceX said it would build a mile-long test track near its Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters and host a competition for student and independent engineering teams to design subscale transport pods.
Selected teams would then be invited to test their pods on the SpaceX Hyperloop track in June 2016.
Interested participants have until Sept. 15 to submit an application. Details of the competition, including prizes, will be released on Aug. 15, SpaceX said.
Musk previously described Hyperloop as a cross between a Concorde jet, a rail gun and an air hockey table. The capsules would ride a cushion of air blasted from underlying skis, propelled by a magnetic linear accelerator.
He expects a 400-mile (644 km) Hyperloop system connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco would take seven to 10 years to build and cost less than $6 billion. It would cut a 5-1/2 hour drive down to about 30 minutes.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)