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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.

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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 '19 at 15:56
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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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If we count aircraft used as the first stage of a launcher:

White Knight Two:

enter image description here

Stratolaunch:

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.

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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.

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"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. $\endgroup$ – Starfish Prime Dec 11 '19 at 11:06

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