Jeff Bezos made headlines earlier this week with what some see as a far-fetched notion of delivering packages from the skies with drones.

But the founder and chief executive has actually made progress on an idea that might be even more improbable: commercial space travel.

Bezos' side business, Blue Origin, which is developing vehicles to send people to space, has successfully tested a new hydrogen- and oxygen-fueled engine that it hopes to use to lift its rockets with crews out of the Earth's atmosphere.

Blue Origin disclosed Tuesday that it conducted the test of the BE-3 rocket engine on Nov. 20 at the company's facility near Van Horn, Texas. The company fired the engine for 2?½ minutes, then paused for several minutes, then re-ignited the engine for a minute.

The test is a significant milestone for Kent-based Blue Origin because it simulates the pattern that the rocket would use in a suborbital mission. Those rockets are reusable, unlike booster systems that fall away after firing. During the test, they fired at relatively low levels of thrust to simulate a controlled vertical landing.

Blue Origin said that the BE-3 engine has now had more than 160 starts and 9,100 seconds of operation at the Texas test facility.

Blue Origin operates separately from Amazon.

Jay Greene: Twitter: iamjaygreene

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