Blue Origin, the name of the aerospace business started by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, announced today a milestone in its development of the BE-4 engine that will carry humans into low-Earth orbit, and kick-off missions “from low Earth orbit all the way to Pluto.”

We’ve seen a few images of the powerful rocket engine this summer and it’s a breathtaking piece of machinery:

Blue Origin’s announcement relates to 100 tests of the staged-combustion of liquefied natural gas + liquid oxygen. Full testing of the engine that offers 550,000 pounds of thrust won’t begin until 2016. It is expected to be flight-ready by 2017.

The engine will launch Blue Origin’s still-unnamed orbital vehicle that will fly out of Cape Canaveral, Florida, going beyond the missions of the New Shepard, a vehicle that will travel only into suborbital space, behind 110,000 pounds of thrust. (New Shepard launches from Blue Origin’s facility in West Texas.)

As announced earlier this month, the BE-4 engines will also launch the Vulcan rocket (a descendent of the Atlas and Delta rockets) on its first flight, scheduled for 2019. The in-development Vulcan is the product of the Denver-based United Launch Alliance, a 50-50 partnership between Lockheed Martin and the Boeing Company to carry payloads involving weather, telecommunications, and U.S. security interests into space.

We reached out to Blue Origin about this announced milestone, but they are being tight-lipped for now: “Thanks for your excitement and interest in Blue Origin. Unfortunately, we are not conducting any interviews at this time.”

An artist's rendering of Blue Origin's still-unnamed orbital vehicle.