Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin rocket company has shot a capsule into space higher than it ever has before.
The test of the New Shepard rocket has been a roaring success after taking off from west Texas. And it also tested a innovative way of coming back down: a crew capsule that will allow potential astronauts to escape at any point during the flight, allowing them to flee in the case of emergencies.
When the booster separated, that capsule's escape motor fired, lifting the spacecraft to an altitude of 389,846ft – or 74 miles.
It is part of a safety system intended to save lives once space tourists and others climb aboard for suborbital hops.
Wednesday's passenger was Mannequin Skywalker, an instrumented dummy in a blue flight suit which has flown before, plus science experiments.
The booster and capsule - both repeat fliers - landed successfully. It was the ninth test flight and lasted 11 minutes.
"Crew Capsule looks great even after it was pushed hard by the escape test. Astronauts would have had an exhilarating ride and safe landing," Mr Bezos said in a tweet.
Blue Origin has yet to announce when it will start selling tickets or how much flights will cost. Launch commentator Ariane Cornell promised it would be soon.
Mr Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon, aims to send people and payloads into orbit from Cape Canaveral. Those missions will rely on the bigger, more powerful New Glenn rocket still under development.
He has named his rockets after Nasa's original Mercury astronauts Alan Shepard, the first American in space, and John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth.
Additional reporting by agencies
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