For release: March 17, 1996
Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
Catherine E. Watson
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.
Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.
Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio
Release No. 96-015
U.S.-Russian Flight Research Program Begins With SST
A modified Russian supersonic passenger jet rolled out of its
hangar today to symbolize the start of a joint six-month flight
research program between NASA, a U.S. industry team and the Russian
A Tu-144LL, a
supersonic flying laboratory, will carry experiments in support of
NASA's High-Speed Research (HSR) program and in cooperation with
the Russian Tupolev Design Bureau. The HSR program, begun in 1990,
teams NASA with U.S. industry to develop technology for a
High-Speed Civil Transport (HSCT) by the turn of the century. The
U.S. industry team for the Tu-144 project is led by Boeing with
help from McDonnell Douglas, Rockwell, Pratt & Whitney and
The Tu-144LL project was enabled by an agreement signed in June
1993 in Vancouver by Vice President Gore and Russian Prime Minister
Vicktor Chernomyrdin. This is the most significant joint
aeronautics program to date between the two countries.
"Using the Tu-144LL is a perfect fit between our needs and their
capabilities. It's a model for cooperative technology programs with
Russia," said former NASA High-Speed Research (HSR) program
director Louis J. Williams. "This effort will give up-to-date
information on the 'real world' conditions that a supersonic
airliner operates in - data we wouldn't otherwise be able to obtain
The project calls for the Russian-made aircraft to make 32
flights in six months
beginning this spring. All flights will be in Russia. Six
NASA/U.S. industry experiments will be flown at various times
throughout the period. Two more experiments will be conducted on
the ground using a Tu-144 engine.
The Tu-144 can fly at Mach 2.3, or 2.3 times the speed of sound
- approximately 1,500 mph. Its speed and availability make it the
perfect vehicle for NASA to conduct studies of high-temperature
structures and materials, acoustics, supersonic aerodynamics and
To prepare the Tu-144 for flight, its original engines were
removed in favor of larger and newer NK-321 augmented turbofan
engines, originally produced for the Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack
bomber. The engines are one of many upgrades and modifications. The
airliner's passenger seats were removed to make room for the
experiments' instrumentation and data collection. The work is being
done by the Tupolev Design Bureau, for which the Tu-144 is named.
All Tu-144LL flights will originate from the Zhukovsky Airfield in
A total of 17 Tu-144s were manufactured, including a prototype
and five "D" models. The aircraft chosen for the flight test
program is one of the D models, which have slightly different
specifications than a production model. The world's first
supersonic transport flight was made by a Tu-144 prototype on Dec.
31, 1968. The sleek, needle-nosed aircraft was originally designed
for service in the Russian airline industry. A Tu-144 first flew
passengers on a flight from Moscow to Alma-Ala, Kazakhstan on Nov.
As envisioned by NASA's HSR program, the next-generation HSCT
would fly 300 passengers at 2.4 times the speed of sound - crossing
the Pacific or Atlantic in less than half the time presently
required on modern subsonic, wide-bodied jets - at an affordable
ticket price, estimated at less than 20 percent above comparable
subsonic flights. The technology to make the this HSCT possible is
being developed by an unprecedented teaming of major U.S. aerospace
companies in the multi-year HSR program.
The NASA HSR team is led by the HSR Program Office, located at
NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., and is supported by
Dryden Flight Research Center, and the Ames and Lewis
Research Centers. U.S. corporate partners in the HSR program are
Boeing Commercial Airplane Group, McDonnell Douglas Aerospace,
Rockwell North American Aircraft Div., General Electric Aircraft
Engines and Pratt & Whitney.
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