In a call with Engadget ahead of the test, Virgin Hyperloop’s representatives told us there was a heavy focus on safety, given the level of attention the journey was likely to provoke. Both were walked through the tube and shown the various exit points and procedures to ensure that, should things fail, they could get out of the capsule. Hyperloop said that the pair would be in constant contact with the company’s control desk throughout the test.
The pair traveled in a brand new, second-generation Hyperloop pod, codenamed XP-2, the “Pegasus Pod.” XP-2 was designed to comfortably seat and support two passengers. Both seats have beefy five-point harnesses, the sort you’d find in race cars, but they’re the only modification used for the test. That’s because the pod was designed to mirror a real Hyperloop journey in as many ways as possible, and the real things are envisioned more like a subway ride than a rocket.
In order to maintain a comfortable experience for acceleration and braking, the capsule’s speed in this test was limited to 107 miles per hour. That’s less than half of the pod’s top speed in the tube, which maxed out at 240 miles per hour during tests at the end of 2017. This is mostly down to the length of the tube: 500 meters isn’t long enough to reach the sort of speeds that the company promises to reach. But greater speeds are likely to be demonstrated when the second Hyperloop facility is built in West Virginia.
As one company representative told Engadget, “This is our moon landing.” Demonstrating that the pod is safe for human consumption is a big milestone in its journey. It may also encourage more investors and regulators to get on board to help bankroll the next stage in its evolution.