Prototypes and Experiments, Supersonic Transport Week

A Soviet SST In King Langley’s Court

“People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?” That’s what Rodney King said, and the Russian space agency and NASA took it to heart.

After the sun set on the Soviet empire, Russia and the USA teamed up on a SST research program using a Tupolev Tu-144LL. The -LL was a first generation Tu-144 that had been converted by Tupolev for research after the Tu-144 ended its passenger ferrying career after a series of crashes.

The program, run out of NASA Langley Research Center and flown out of Tupolev’s facility at Zhukovsky Air Development Center near Moscow, was used to verify findings from scale models in wind tunnels and mathematical models. It included 19 flights in the first phase from June 1996 to February 1998, and another 7 flights in a follow-on phase from September 1998 to April 1999.

Other than the research data, the program helped solidify the relationship between NASA and the Russkies, which is becoming critical with the impending retirement of the Space Shuttle without a US-bred replacement.

[Ed. Our esteemed reader Number_Six brought this up yesterday. He deserves credit for thinking like me. OK, maybe “credit” wasn’t the right word…]

[Image Credits: NASA Dryden]

  • Well done Number_Six! There is a serious wealth of knowledge in these comments (with the exception of mine).

    • Number_Six

      I saw a cool documentary on this program a few years ago, so when I saw the pic I immediately thought of it.

      /When other kids were puking outside a school dance I was reading about aircraft

  • dwegmull

    My lack of intelligent comments this week is the result of a busy work schedule my complete lack of aeronautical knowledge

  • Number_Six

    Too bad they couldn't have used a Concorde.

  • Jim-bob

    The biggest problem with the TU-144 was that the Soviets did not have access to the advanced materials that the builders of the Concorde did. Thus, things were improvised with lesser materials that were not up to the stresses involved and they would fail in flight.

    It’s also a little ironic that NASA would use the TU 144 for research. Remember that the TU-4 was a Soviet copy (except for the use of metric fasteners and different engines)of the B-29. Tupolev was tasked by Stalin with copying the three B-29’s that had made emergency landings in the USSR during WWII-including the Hap Arnold Special. Thus, Andrei Tupolev’s work came full circle!

    • Deartháir

      Jim-bob, you need to create an account over at and sign in with that so that your excellent comments aren't always being filtered, and requiring a moderator to approve them.

      Okay, we might still have to do that for a couple days, but once people click your "thumbs up" button a few times, you'll be golden!