Sierra Nevada has shipped the Dream Chaser orbital spacecraft to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center near Palmdale, California, for glide tests.
The Dream Chaser departed Sierra Nevada's factory near Denver, Colorado by truck, headed for NASA's Dryden centre, which is co-located with flight test facilities at Edwards AFB.
The spacecraft will be reassembled, then undergo tests including suitability for towing, ground resonance and captive-carry tests slung beneath a helicopter, leading up to a series of autonomous glide tests.
For the glide tests, the spacecraft will be brought to various altitudes by a Sikorsky CH-53 and released to glide back to the runway on its own.
A minimum of one flight test is required to satisfy contract provisions under NASA's fourth commercial crew integrated capability (CCiCap) programme milestone. Successful completion will earn Sierra Nevada $15 million. Completing all 10 milestones will earn the company $213 million.
Dream Chaser is one of three crew-capable vehicles funded by CCiCap, which is intended to replace the Russian Soyuz as a primary mode of transportation to the International Space Station. The competitors are Boeing with the CST-100 capsule and SpaceX with the Dragon capsule.
Sierra Nevada did not respond to immediate questions.