The Tupolev Tu-144 (NATO name: "Charger'") was a supersonic transport aircraft (SST) and remains one of only two SSTs to enter commercial service, the other being Concorde. The design, publicly unveiled in January 1962, was constructed under the direction of the Soviet Tupolev design bureau, headed by Alexei Tupolev.
The prototype first flew on 31 December 1968 near Moscow, two months before the first flight of Concorde. The Tu-144 first went supersonic on 5 June 1969, and on 15 July 1969 became the first commercial transport to exceed Mach 2.
The Tu-144S went into service on 26 December 1975, flying mail and freight between Moscow and Alma-Ata in preparation for passenger services, which commenced on 1 November 1977.
The passenger service ran a semi-scheduled service until the first Tu-144D experienced an in-flight failure during a pre-delivery test flight, crash-landing, on the 23 May 1978 with two crew fatalities. The Tu-144's 55th and last scheduled passenger flight occurred on 1 June 1978.
An Aeroflot freight-only service recommenced using the new production variant Tu-144D ("D" for Dal'nyaya – "long range") aircraft on 23 June 1979, including longer routes from Moscow to Khabarovsk made possible by the more efficient Kolesov RD-36-51 turbojet engines, which also increased the maximum cruising speed to Mach 2.15.
Including the 55 passenger flights, there were 102 scheduled flights before the cessation of commercial service.