Search Langley


Text Size


Don Nolan-Proxmire
For release: March 17, 1996
Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
(202) 358-1983

Catherine E. Watson
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.
(757) 864-6122

Dill Hunley
Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.
(805) 258-3447

Lori Rachul

Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio
(216) 433-8806

Release No. 96-015

U.S.-Russian Flight Research Program Begins With SST Roll-Out

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 aeronautics establishment.

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 General Electric.

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 easily."

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 supersonic propulsion.

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 Russia.

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. 1, 1977.

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 NASA's 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.


- end -

text-only version of this release