Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture said on Tuesday that it reached a key milestone in the development of its home-grown, hydrogen-fueled rocket engine.
Blue Origin fired its BE-3 engine on Nov. 20 for the full cycle that would be expected during a suborbital space journey — including a 145-second burn at 110,000 pounds of thrust, a four-minute shutdown, and then a restart at 25,000 pounds of thrust for a minute to simulate a controlled vertical landing.
"We intend to upgrade this engine for a variety of applications," the company's president, Rob Meyerson, told NBC News during Tuesday's teleconference.
For more than a decade, Blue Origin has been working on a launch system known as "New Shepard" that could send tourists and researchers on suborbital flights to the edge of space, more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) up. The company plans to leverage that technology into an orbital launch system capable of carrying astronauts to the International Space Station, starting sometime after 2018.