Ray Starsman produced manual for building International Space Station

For more than 50 years Ray Starsman of Punta Gorda, Fla. and his family served as career officers in the U.S. Army and Navy. Here his grandson, Raymond (center) graduates from Virginia Military Institute in 2010 a Army 2nd lieutenant. He is flanked by his father, Scott (a Navy Commander, left) and grandfather, Ray (an Army colonel). Father and grandfather pinned the new lieutenant’s bars on his shoulders. Photo provided

Producing the manual for designing the International Space Station was the most important and satisfying job Col. Ray Starsman of Punta Gorda, Fla. ever had during a long and varied working career.

“Ever since I was in high school I was a nut for aeronautical and missile science,” he said. “An old friend, working on the Space Station, called and asked if I would like to work with him. It was a chance for me to get back into the thing I really loved, rocket propulsion and all that kinda stuff.”

Prior to that Starsman spent 21 years in the Army until resigning in 1992 when he accepted a position as Chief Systems Engineer with the Washington Metro. For five years he helped design 40 miles of D.C.’s mass-transit system.

When his buddy, who worked on the Space Station program, called and offered Starsman a job his life changed once more.

“I went to work for Jet Propulsion Laboratory headquartered at Cal Tech. I worked for JPL in Reston, Va. My job was the development of the Program Review Document for the Space Station,” he explained.

“When I went to work for the Space Station it was a very big thing. It was roughly the size of the capitol in Washington. Then the Soviet Union fell apart and the Space Station was reduced in size,” he said.

“I became the organizer and editor of the document that the scientists at NASA headquarters used to put the Space Station together. I didn’t do it by myself, I had a lot of help.”

After five years toiling among the stars on the Space Station Starsman moved on.

It had been more than 30 years since he graduated from West Point in 1961. He began his military career serving a four year tour in Panama commanding a Hawk Missile battery. He was posted to Vietnam in 1965 to command a 105 millimeter Howitzer battery attached to the 1st Infantry Division–“The Big Red One.”

When he returned from the war in Southeast Asia he had a chance to attended the University of Arizona. He received two Master’s degrees in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the same tine from Arizona.

“Then I got involved with missile defense once more. I worked on the Safe Guard Missile Program.

“I was in research and development at this program for ballistic missiles housed in silos near Minot, N. D. These were big missiles that would attack incoming enemy warheads,” Starsman explained. I spent a couple of years working in R & D for the program from an office in Reston, Va.

Maj. Gen. Albert Akers congratulates Starsman for his promotion to bird colonel. He worked for the general as Chief of Army Missile Research and Development, Photo provided

“From there I went to work for the Secretary of Defense Dr. James Schlesinger during the Nixon Administration. I became the Director of Cost Analysis. I crunched the cost numbers for all the services for the secretary.

“When President Nixon got relieved of his duties and President Gerald Ford took over, Dr. Schlesinger continued as Secretary of Defense until he had a falling out with Ford over budgetary cuts and was relieved of his duties, too.

“Schlesinger was a very bright, good guy,” he recalled.

After the firings in the Department of Defense, Ford appointed Donald Rumsfeld Secretary of Defense.

“Rumsfeld was a totally different person. He was not analytical he was very political,” Starsman said.

“It was time for me to get back in uniform and go overseas. When I was working for the secretary I wore civilian clothes and most people didn’t know I was in the Army. ”

He was reassigned to Korea as commander a Hawk Missile Battalion. Our battalion was spread over 10,000 square miles. We provided air defense for the people of Korea. I was in Korea in 1976 serving as a lieutenant colonel,” he explained.

When he came back to the States he went to work for Maj. Gen. Max Thurman. He was the Army’s chief program analysis and evaluation expert. Starsman’s job was to lay out the Army’s budget five years in advance. He crunched numbers and provided the information the general needed.

“Gen. Thurman was an interesting guy. He wasn’t married to anyone but the Army. He would arrive at 6 a.m. and turn off his office lights at 10 p,m. seven days a week. And so did everyone else who worked for him.

“The way we were dealing with the ‘Five Year Budget Program’ you would think we were fighting World War III. I went for seven months without sleeping in my own bed,” Starsman recalled with a smile.

“After three years of that, I got a chance to attend the Army War College in Washington, D.C. That allowed me a chance to recover from nothing but work,” he said.

It was 1994 and Starsman had served more than two decades in the Army. He decided to go to work in the civilian sector for a change. He got a job working as a design engineer for the Washington Metro System.

After that he spent another five years working on plans for the Space Station.

Then he went to work for the U.S. Department of Transportation developing the Intelligent Transportation System for the DOT.

“The stuff you see in your car today, like GPS systems, was not in your car back then. The idea was we were running out of space for roads and we had to look to technology to help improve the traffic flow rather than asphalt,” he said.

Starsman did that until he retired and moved to Punta Gorda with his wife, Marsha, in 2001.

All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be republished without permission. Links are encouraged.

Click here to view the War Tales fan page on FaceBook. 


  1. I knew Ray and Marsha while at the ISS in Reston VA – absolutely great people. They had some great parties and were among the friendliest folks you’d ever want to meet. My wife, Rahna, and I are now in Florida as well and would love to get in touch with them; can you pass on my info?

  2. I served under Ray in Panama. He was the best officer that I ever met. I was in awe of him. His unit was the best company sized unit in Panama. His men worshiped him. He was the ultimate captain.

    He made me into a better officer.

    Mike Miller (author of Kill Zone).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s