One of the things that makes the Star Wars films so visually distinctive is the asymmetric spaceships, for example the Millennium Falcon below whose cockpit is located in the top right corner as perceived by the crew.

Image of the Millennium Falcon, a fictional spacecraft from the 1977 film Star Wars

Are there any real-life spaceships that have their cockpit or control center on the side of the spaceship as perceived by the crew? If not, has there ever been a serious design for such a ship?

The Space Shuttle arguably has a cockpit on the top, but it is still has bilateral symmetry along the right-left axis as perceived by the crew, and also matches traditional aircraft design in terms of cockpit placement. I'm more interested in whether the idea of a "cockpit on the side" design is truly the realm of science fiction.

The term "serious" can have some "good subjective" nuances, so I leave reasonable interpretation to the reader or answerer. Generally, I would consider a design "serious" if it meets any of the following criteria:

  • Was proposed by a major aerospace contractor (e.g. Lockheed, Boeing, etc.) in response to some RFP.
  • Was the subject of a peer-reviewed academic article.
  • Was seriously considered by a national space agency, even if ultimately rejected.
  • Had a full-size and/or flyable prototype made, even if the prototype never flew or was capable only of flight in the atmosphere.

Designs that appear only in science fiction works or that were the result of idle doodling would not normally be considered serious under my definition.

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    $\begingroup$ There haven't been any spacecraft that have been big enough for this to be a thing. $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Dec 10, 2019 at 15:56

4 Answers 4


An early Martin Marietta Phase A fully reusable space shuttle design proposal, the Spacemaster, had an asymmetrical cockpit layout on its booster component.

enter image description here

Note that the "catamaran" booster only has a cockpit in the left fuselage.

enter image description here

Never flew of course but it was a serious proposal.

Source: Jenkins, Space Shuttle, 1992 edition, page 61

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    $\begingroup$ That design is awesome. Any idea if it would actually work? $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2020 at 15:20
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    $\begingroup$ I like it too. Looks like something from the old Thunderbirds tv show. $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2020 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ I would love so much to know how the designers of these proposals feel about them now. Do they still think about these and secretly wish they'd gotten a chance to prove it could work? Were they skeptical and relieved they didn't have to find and fix problems? So much interesting work we'll probably never know about. $\endgroup$ Mar 17, 2022 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ @KatieKilian agree. I would imagine it was really interesting to be iterating over all these different designs - and some were pretty creative, to say the least. Check out the SERV falsesteps.wordpress.com/2012/08/18/… $\endgroup$ Mar 17, 2022 at 16:05

If we count aircraft used as the first stage of a launcher:

White Knight Two:

enter image description here


enter image description here

They may look symmetrical, but they both have a cockpit in one fuselage, while the cockpit space in the other fuselage is empty.


I'm more interested in whether the idea of a "cockpit on the side" design is truly the realm of science fiction.

In the related area of aircraft design, there have been multiple reasons for asymmetric (left-right) structures. This has led to some Star Wars-like designs:

enter image description here (Blohm & Voss BV 141)

enter image description here

(Blohm & Voss P 194)

The Aviation Stack Exchange has lots more examples.

The lesson seems to be that symmetry is convenient, but not necessary. In the absence of aerodynamic issues (or the presence of asymmetric ones), designers will use that degree of freedom.

This leads to space-related examples like Virgin Galactic's White Knight Two, which has two different parallel fuselage booms.


"Spacecraft" is a bit broad... Most "spacecraft" would be satellites, and probes, which while having no "crew" do have a "control center" which is often not centered, or symmetrical.

While a bit pedantic, I suspect you really intended to ask about human crewed spacecraft. And indeed I am not aware of any that are not bilaterally symmetrical. The reason for many, is that you want to return your crew home, and to do that there must be atmospheric re-entry. Asymmetrical spacecraft create control problems when re-entering, wanting to spin or flip the craft, so it makes sense to use a symmetrical design to reduce spacecraft complexity.

Finally, a human crewed spacecraft that does not have to re-enter the atmosphere COULD use a non- symmetrical design, if there is a reason to... You could consider the lunar lander is slightly non-symmetrical, as seen in this mock up:

Lunar Lander

There just haven't been many other non-atmospheric crewed spacecraft built yet.

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    $\begingroup$ "While a bit pedantic, I suspect you really intended to ask about human crewed spacecraft" you don't have to suspect... the title of the question states "cockpit", which seem unambiguously human-related to me. $\endgroup$ Dec 11, 2019 at 11:06

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