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Smithsonian’s ‘Futures’ Exhibition to Feature Virgin Hyperloop’s Record-Breaking Transportation Pod

Virgin Hyperloop’s Pegasus vehicle will be on display for viewers to take a closer look at its interior this fall

Virgin's hyperloop system uses magnetic levitation technology to reduce friction and low-pressure sealed vacuums along the track that minimize air resistance. (Virgin Hyperloop)
smithsonianmag.com

Smithsonian's 175th anniversary will kick-off the historic Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building (AIB) temporary reopening after two decades to showcase "Futures," an exhibition about exploring the future on display November 2021 through July 2022. The AIB is no stranger to exhibiting ground-breaking inventions and has displayed Edison's lightbulb, Apollo rockets, and Alexander Graham Bell's telephone.

Now, visitors to the "Futures" exhibition will have the chance to get a first look at another world-changing invention, the gleaming Virgin Hyperloop's Pegasus XP-2 vehicle, reports Mike Brown for Inverse.

“At its core, this exhibition is about optimism and recognizing the many forces among us, like hyperloop, that are rapidly approaching and have the potential to transform our visitors’ daily lives," says Ashley Molese, AIB curator, in a statement. "The ability to reduce a journey of many hours to just a few minutes is in and of itself a revolution, a way to connect people in ways we didn’t think possible.”

Hyperloops are super-speed transit systems that move passengers seated within a capsule through a ground-level vacuum tube at speeds of up to 760 miles per hour, reports Anamaria Silic for Discover. Virgin Hyperloop's Pegasus XP-2 Pod made headlines in the fall 2020 when it carried the world's first hyperloop passengers, accelerating to 107 miles per hour in a swift 6.25 seconds, reports Jeff Spry for SYFY Wire. Elon Musk first proposed the pneumatic transportation system in 2013 as an open-source design, and in 2014, Virgin began working on the hyperloop transportation system, Discover reports.

Virgin's hyperloop system uses magnetic levitation technology to reduce friction and low-pressure sealed vacuums along the track that minimize air resistance. These two systems allow the hyperloop to reach breakneck speeds faster than a highspeed rail while hovering along its track, reports Discover. The hyperloop will also have the potential to draw energy from solar panels to power its electric motor. In January 2021, Virgin Hyperloop revealed a concept video about what someone boarding a commercial hyperloop may experience. The video is something out of a futuristic dream.

Plans for exhibiting Virgin's Hyperloop at the museum first began after Josh Giegel, CEO and co-founder of Virgin Hyperloop, toured the Arts and Industries Building during a trip to Washington D.C., Inverse reports. The invitation sparked a conservation about having Virgin Hyperloop showcased during the "Futures" exhibition after the Hyperloop’s prototype XP-1 set a public speed record of 270 mph in 2017.

"So you're talking about all these different things that could be in it, knowing full well that once we had this successful test that it was going to be the star of the show. Once we did the test, they were thrilled beyond belief. They were like, 'Oh, this is even better than we could have ever imagined," Geigel told Inverse.

The Pegasus XP-2 vehicle will be shipped to Washington D.C. this summer in preparation for the exhibit, where visitors will get the chance to view the vehicle's sleek modern interior and envision what a trip in the ultra-fast capsule may feel like. Its public debut will join the ranks of other innovations that were first revealed at the Smithsonian.

"Since opening in 1881, the Arts + Industries Building has been an incubator of ideas that, while at the time may have felt unimaginable, have gone on to profoundly impact the ways in which we experience the world around us," says Rachel Goslins, AIB director, in a statement. "Hyperloop is one of these leaps that signal a transformative shift in how we could live and travel. We invite visitors to discover the Pegasus pod in the very building where Americans first encountered famous steam engines, the Apollo 11 lunar capsule and the Spirit of St. Louis."

Virgin Hyperloop will likely obtain safety certification by 2025 and begin commercial operations by 2030, reports Inverse.

About Elizabeth Gamillo
Elizabeth Gamillo

Elizabeth Gamillo is a science journalist based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has written for Science magazine as their 2018 AAAS Diverse Voices in Science Journalism Intern.

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