If you haven't heard of Space Exploration Technologies (aka SpaceX) yet, chances are you will soon. The space transport company is leading the charge to privatize space flight in the wake of the U.S.'s decommissioned space program, and later this year will begin making delivery runs to and from the ISS with its unmanned Dragon spacecraft.

But forget about that for a second, and focus your attention on the video up top. What you see here is SpaceX's test of its powerful new rocket system — the guitar-shreddingly awesome "SuperDraco." According to Discovery's Ian O'Neill:

[SuperDraco] may not have the mammoth thrust of one of the SpaceX Merlin 1C engines that blasted the Falcon 9 into orbit, but its purpose is possibly more crucial than to "simply" launch stuff into space.

In fact, the SuperDraco won't launch anything into space.

Building on the technology behind the Draco thruster that will be used to maneuver the Dragon spacecraft while in Earth orbit, the SuperDraco is a souped-up version designed to rescue launching crews and land the vehicle on a planetary body — like Earth... or Mars.


That's right, folks — if SpaceX wants to put an astronaut on Mars in the next 20 years, this is the rocket they'll use to do it.

"SuperDraco engines represent the best of cutting edge technology," explained SpaceX founder Elon Musk, in a statement released yesterday. "These engines will power a revolutionary launch escape system that will make Dragon the safest spacecraft in history and enable it to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy."

[Via Discovery News]