The Star-Raker – A 1979 Space Plane With 15 Engines, Massive Wings & Huge Ambition

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The Star-Raker began life as an alternative proposal by Rockwell for the Space Shuttle, but in 1978 they fleshed out the concept as a cargo ferry to deliver tens of thousands of tons to orbit every year as part of a visionary plan for the US to build a network of space power stations to supply the nation’s energy needs.
Star-Raker would have been 2000 tons at launch, over 100 meters long and powered by 10 multi-mode airbreathing jet engines, 3 hydrogen fueled rocket engines and a pair of orbital maneuvering engines. Ultimately it never flew but it was an interesting study in what it might take to build a single stage to orbit spaceplane with the technology of the era.

Largely inspired by Davis S Portree’s research on the Star-Raker, I highly recommend his blog about space history

  1. Dmytro Picky

    i wonder will SSTO always look cool before any calculations or will humans get smarter and see the problem instantly?)

  2. Rowdy Yates

    Considering it was Rockwell, and considering they had SR-71 engines already morphing into Ram-Jets in flight, I don’t think the design needed “magic” engines as you smirkingly suggest.

  3. Unidentified Biomass

    You should do a vid on the Lockheed CL-1201, takes a crew of nearly 500 to operate it. Concept craft from 1969 that would operate as a flying carrier

  4. J Shepard

    When you have fifteen engines, do you really even know how many engines you need? I feel like someone just said “Eh, I dunno. Add a couple more!”

  5. Ganiscol

    Why is one of the greenling pilots excited and the other one clearly expects imminent death? 🤔

  6. Jean-Marc Tremblay

    4:20 that kerbal on the right is so happy

  7. TARDIS Mapping

    Yes! One of the First! And a KSP vid!

  8. Muhammad Abdullah Waseem

    When Scott uploads a new vid i explode with happiness. This channel is one of only a handful that upload quality content. Well done and keep it up

  9. Julian Kandlhofer

    man i miss the optimism they had back then…

  10. 1000dots

    Lesson learned: Elon should consider larger wings.

  11. Joe Wickham

    Yesss! One of my all-time favourite concept spacecraft!

  12. Roger C

    Avro Vulcan with extra engines and extra engines and extra engines!

  13. WolfPeste

    “Star Raker”? That’s one of the Bond movies, no?

  14. 1000dots

    The pic you posted the other day had me looking through pics of cold war era supersonic bombers but I didn’t look at spaceplanes. You find the best vehicles


    When I first heard about the Space Shuttle, this is what I imagined: a plane taking off from a runway. Everyone said that’s impossible! Maybe it was possible?

  16. Derp Bruh

    This would’ve been so damn cool

  17. Leonard J Krabs

    Thanks Scott, as much as I enjoy your posts on real astronomy I still feel like your Kerbal stuff is the best. Please keep it coming into the new version.

  18. Sean Peacock

    I was expecting something from a bond villain built in ksp. And I’m not disappointed

  19. Ray Mobula

    This looks like the ship in 2001, docking with the space station.

    I love the artwork from back then. That alone could be an episode. The art & visions they had in the US, Russia and elsewhere.

  20. Tetsujin

    10:03 – Of course, the frakkin’ Skylon…

  21. Lrr_Of_Omikron

    Why do they basically decontaminate before going into space?

  22. Nathaniel Kencke

    Scott, you should do a video on the MUSTARD rocket.

  23. shaun

    definitely a good job for SABRE engines from Reaction engines Ltd.

  24. HarryGames

    I don’t see how the nose coming of causes less structural weakness

  25. Names

    James Bond Moonraker came out the same year (1979)

  26. Vasile Sulica

    I prefer cargo bay doors in the rear end, like in the case of starchaser from Sierra Nevada corporation.

  27. Dark Guardian

    Not Moon Raker… 🤣
    Happened at about the same time as James Bond’s movie by same name.

  28. Igor Borski

    That’s some crazy inventiveness on par with a H-bomb mega rocket :)

  29. Zachary Hutchison

    6:47 Did you mean space shuttle? You said station.

  30. Katniss

    Why don’t you recreate them in RSS/RO?

  31. Ben

    Anyone else notice the overwatch symbols on the back of the people’s shirts?

  32. Makrillol

    That was beautiful when you started the engines up after re-entry. Makes me want to play KSP again.

    installing now…

  33. Eggbert08

    I have tried so hard on KSP to get a SSTO but just fall short! That is a sweet lookin aircraft, kind of reminds me of the Concorde

  34. Lovecraft

    It’s like a flying freight train…

  35. oldfrend

    would love to hear your take on the SABR engine. some of its claims are hard to believe, but the british government have seen enough to continue to fund them.

  36. Josh Sherwood

    “We thought the payload bay doors on the back were a structural weakness.”
    “So what did you do instead?”
    “Oh, we just cut the damn ship right in half and put a hinge in there.”
    How absolutely mental did these engineers have to be? haha

  37. OG Prime

    Love to see the KSP content👏🏽

  38. dane belling

    Currently sitting in my apartment pending covid test results. Going to be binge watching a lot of scotts videos for the next few days

  39. Kjetil Hjertholm Jensen

    What impressed me about the SABRE engine is the precooler. Cooling the air hundreds of degrees from air-intake to supercold in micro-seconds before reaching the engine

  40. X-JAKA7

    The Star-Raker is like a Space Shuttle on heavy duty steroids.

  41. Raymond Saint

    In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gendo Ikari is on board a similar space plane (Episode 07).

  42. Vineeth Thomas

    This would have been more epic than the space shuttle 😍

  43. Theodore Olson

    I’m pretty sure it’s Moonraker. MOONRaker. Geeze Scott.

  44. Brady Chuck

    Fly Safe!

  45. Corné Beyers

    I built this same plane in Kerbal and it flew like a dream! Sadly the kraken liked it aswell :(

  46. Nicola Tesla

    The Spaceshuttle just looks so boring compared to the Star-Raker. It’s a shame this project never got anywhere…

  47. shimmy1984

    Would love an episode on Reaction Engines and Skylon

  48. Morlanius

    Getting old and less responsive there Scott, you nearly hit that Earth!

  49. Thorsten Frank

    I always loved the concept od an SSTO spaceplane including, of course, the two HOTOLs. Well, that was before a certain guy started to land rockets the way “God and Bob Heinlein have wanted it”. I still hope Skylon will get a chance.
    Thanks for this video, Scott.

  50. Pham Nuwen

    As I recall, Reaction Engines tried something with a similar layout before Skylon, but found that the center of gravity changed too much as propellant was consumed or cargo was deployed which required excessive torque/trim forces.

    The design of Skylon with cargo and engines in the middle and multiple propellant tanks symmetrically in front of and behind the center was created to solve this issue.

  51. Zac M.

    All I can think of, seeing that, is Thunderbirds. Seems straight out of it, especially from a couple of those concept paintings

  52. Bob Thompson

    They look like the SST super sonic transport

  53. Simon O'Connor

    I heard you like engines, so I added some engines to the engines, just to make sure…

  54. wilemelliott

    you know, the turbofan to ramjet design [the magic] HAS been flown by Lockheed before. SR71’s P&W J58s were probably what they based the 8 air breathers on in concept…

  55. pulesjet

    Looks a bit like the Vulcan.

  56. Jay H

    Theres footage of v2 rocket with musk technology how’s that then

  57. Mike S

    That’s about as large of a flying bomb I’ve ever seen.

  58. Eks calybur

    We need to build one simply because with a name like that it HAS to be in a Bond film.

  59. Space noodles

    If they drop the landing gear, doesn’t it make it a multi-stage craft?

  60. BlueFrostedGlass

    I had the Estes Star Raker Rocket growing up :-D

  61. DuffMan

    5:25 – the front fell off

  62. Kyle Brown

    Scott, mate, if you ever read atheist word “superalloy”, what they mean is just Inconel of some form

  63. Cameron McQuinn

    Am I the only one who did a double-take when the front part of the thing hinged open?

  64. John Burtenshaw

    I fell in love with this monster when a UK newspaper did an article on it in the 1970s. Just loved the design and the size of it.

  65. David Ramirez

    I don’t really like ssto and more now that there is spacex
    Bu man I would love to see this thing flying

  66. Amatthew123

    See this is the kind of science fiction technology that engineers could achieve if Nasa had a 12x or 13x larger budget.

  67. xbolt90

    I can always count on you for fascinating space history I had never heard of before!

  68. John Smith

    I’ll stick to my 747-launched Moonraker thank you very much! Any 747 pilot volunteers?
    -The Drax Corporation

  69. NeverTalkToCops1

    Any airplane or tech with the name “Raker” is automatically cheesy. Name how many products use that moniker.

  70. Mike Donovan

    This would have been so much cooler than the shuttle.

  71. tasman_devil

    Now make the plane from Starflight: the plane that couldn’t land.
    Can you even do the scene with the Starflight + Spaceshuttle in Kerbal??

  72. 180outofphase

    Looks like an Avro Vulcan with rocket engines

  73. KuraIthys

    2000 huh.

    Well to be fair to them, their engine concept sounds like what skylon has been trying to do.

    And while their spaceplane design is entirely theoretical, the engine that’s supposed to power it isn’t, and has had some testing at least…

  74. Anonymous_bacon 23

    I watched the twitter post where you try to land this plane. And was literally spamming the d button in a attempt to keep it on the runway. lol

  75. Lewis Massie

    Honestly it seems like something from a Gerry Anderson show

  76. reviews and repairs

    fun fact uk tv series UFO is 50 years old today . i wonder where they got ed strakers name from ?

  77. H. Fisher

    Thank you for the upload, Scott. Thank you also for not making it a “premiere.”

  78. SawdEndymon 1312

    A Scott Manley video at 2AM (my time) *HELL YES!!!*

  79. Noah Spurrier

    A feat of engineering is not an engineering masterpiece.

  80. Andre Gulbis

    I thought SSTOs sucked!? Everyday Astro told me do…

  81. Zeithri

    I wish I was absurdly rich so I could fund this just for the funs.

  82. reviews and repairs

    “how can we make the most complex most expensive space cargo ship in history ” rockwell engineers hold my beer !

  83. Jane Tizzy

    Commander: “Joe, did you remember to lock the trunk?”
    Joe? JOE? (sound of rushing air with a wiggling nose section)

  84. David Lundberg Jeppesen

    5:34 “well the front fell off, it isn’t supposed to do that”

  85. shrikelet


  86. Rodion Khoruzhenko

    Thanks Scott, I’m spending the night at the hospital and it’s always comforting to hear you talk about cool stuff like this :)

  87. Michael Thompson

    From a distance it looks a bit like an RV with a wing tacked onto it.
    Going to plaid!

  88. Helium Road

    I know this project sounds difficult to pull off, but this is Rockwell, they created the Turboencabulator. They could do anything.

  89. David Gifford

    lol all that was needed was “magic” engines, perhaps built from unobtainiam, I cannot think why it wasn’t developed as an SSTO.

  90. cook13snip3aa

    I just love how Gery Anderson (Thunderbirds) this craft looks!

  91. Virgil Karlsson

    “Landing is hard” *crosses threshold at 240 km/h*

  92. davidf2281

    Pretty sure nobody at NASA ever seriously thought this was going to fly; they just wanted an excuse to draw pictures of massive cool spaceplanes.

  93. Jorge Miguel

    But which Space Station has Low Conductivity High Temperature Ceramic Tiles? 6:50 ;) I guess the Space Shuttle was indeed a Space Station when in orbit :)

  94. andy fletcher

    The Star-Raker concept looks like something that Gerry Anderson would have come up with.

  95. Alain Girard

    Speaking about the Space Power Satellite, I met twice with Pr Peter Glaser, promoter of the idea. The first time was in Florida when he presented the concept. The second time was in Toulouse during a congress. I remember that we took the same train from Toulouse to Cannes where I worked. In the Matabiau railway station of Toulouse, where our train was due to “take-off” at 16:00, he asked me anxiously at 15:57 if the train was late, and one minute after, the train was there, and departed at 16:00 from Toulouse. All the way long, he was checking his train time table and was astonished that the train was exactly on time in each station along the line. Peter Glaser was able to imagine satellites of ten kilometer wingspan, with antenna diameter of 2 km, but he could not believe that the french train could be on time !

  96. Joseph K. Paul

    In an alternate universe spacex successfully flew sstos and scott will have made a video showing how cool vertical landing rockets are in Kerbal

  97. weldonwin

    Now, who else heard the name Star-Raker and instantly thought of the goofiest ever Bond movie?

  98. SolarWebsite

    Engineers: cargo bay doors weaken the structure.
    Also engineers: let’s cut the vehicle completely in half.


    Oh my, 300 likes and a couple of serious replies. I was kidding of course.

  99. Gareeb Scientist

    It’s a good day when Scott uploads..

  100. Anton Petrov

    Ironically, a video about Star-Raker in Kerbal Space was essentially what kick started my channel a few years back. It was a surprisingly popular video that I made for fun on a channel that was entirely about mathematics.

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