Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser orbital spacecraft has begun initial flight testing, and the company has announced completing four milestones under NASA's commercial crew development (CCDev) contract.

Initial captive carry testing began with the Dream Chaser suspended underneath a Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane helicopter at Broomfield Airport, near Sierra Nevada's space division headquarters outside Denver, Colorado. Tests will move to Edwards AFB, California, for more extensive testing, which will see the vehicle released mid-air to glide back to the runway. The Broomfield test marks the first time the vehicle has become airborne.

The four completed CCDev milestones involve testing for landing gear and separation.

"The flight article main landing gear drop testing successfully evaluated the performance of the landing gear selected for use on the engineering test article for approach and landing Tests (ALT), scheduled for later this year," says Sierra Nevada. "The captive carry interface test successfully tested the release mechanism that will be used during ALT, as well as for captive carry."

Dream Chaser will be launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V and land horizontally.

Sierra Nevada was not available to respond to immediate questions.

[This article corrects previous version that mistakenly stated the Dream Chaser had been drop-tested. The article also misidentified the manufacturer of the Atlas V, and wrongly stated that captive carry was among the four CCDev milestones.]

Source: Flight International