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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Concordsky' to Begin NASA Flights

The "Concordsky" -- a supersonic passenger jet mothballed since the 1970s -- is coming out of retirement this month.

The Tupolev 144-D, a revamped version of the needle-nosed Tu-144, will begin a series of NASA high-speed flight experiments aimed at developing supersonic civil transport by the turn of the century.

Interfax said the plane will make 32 flights during its six-month test as part of studies on stability, steering, aerodynamics, fuselage design, cabin noise and engine temperature. Although there are currently 13 supersonic jetliners in the Tupolev fleet, only one will take part in the program.

The new refurbished model can carry up to 300 passengers and is capable of traveling at almost 2 1/2 times the speed of sound.

The revamped Tu-144D was unveiled in March to much fanfare, including a military choir singing "God Bless America," in an expression of gratitude to the NASA partners.

The Tu-144 made its debut in December 1968, just days before the maiden flight of the Concorde.

Westerners instantly dubbed it the "Concordsky" because of the close resemblance.

Sixteen of the supersonic jetliners were produced and they make regular flights between Moscow and Kazakstan.

The planes, which were extremely expensive to operate, were mothballed after one crashed at the 1973 Paris Air Show, publicly embarrassing the Soviet Union.

Only four of the planes are now in working condition, according to Interfax.

During its six-month test, the plane will make 32 flights in Russia.