In the ancient space simulator Elite (for C64, Amstrad, Atari, Amiga, IBM PC, Spectrum and countless others -- that damn game rivalled the bloody Linux kernel in multiplatform-ness), the Cobra MkIII piloted by the player was a pure space vehicle, completely incapable of landing on planets. In the game's excellent manual, it was explained that this was because the craft was unable to achieve escape velocity once in the planet's atmosphere anyway, so it had simply not been designed for planetary landings. Its hull was meant for outer space, not the pressure of a planetary atmosphere, and true enough, get too close to a planet and you rapidly lose hull integrity.
The life of a space trader, pirate, bounty hunter or whatever you decide to make your path in Elite life, will quite quickly get quite boring if you are unable to refit your ship, unload your goods, get a hold of fresh new rumours and refuel. Since the Cobra MkIII is not exactly unique in its non-landing-capable design (the only two craft the manual claims to be capable of planetary landing are the transporter and the Moray Starboat, but this is moot since the player could only have a Cobra MkIII in vintage Elite), space stations play a large role in the game's galactic society and economy. All inhabited planets in Elite are orbited by at least one space station, and they came in two different models. The older one was the tried and true Coriolis, which looked mostly like a strange octahedron, although closer inspection reveals that it, in fact, is not.
The Coriolis station was armed with an ECM system which destroys any missiles you try to launch at it, and while it had no laser cannons, it could launch hordes of police Viper craft to take out anybody silly enough to attack the station. Silly, because the stations were in fact indestructible in the game -- and even sillier, because trying to attack a space station will make you a fugitive, so you won't be able to dock anywhere after the attack (unless, of course, you're equipped with a galactic hyperdrive, allowing you to hop to another Galaxy faster than the propagation speed of your newly acquired bad reputation. One of the most important space station related skills you need early in the game is learning how to dock with the damn things; if your angle is off by even a tiny bit, or you're coming in too fast, you'll be turned into space debris. A docking computer / autopilot system is a wise investment, if you can live with the horrid rendition of Blue Danube it'll bleat at you while docking.
The manual mentions that the Coriolis was an outdated design, slowly being replaced by the larger and more advanced Dodec space stations. The Dodec was (surprise!) dodecahedral, but there weren't really any in-game differences between the two as far as I know. In the sequel, Frontier, David Braben had taken the liberty of disregarding much of what they wrote about the original Elite; the Dodec stations (and the multiple galaxies, aliens, the Fer-De-Lance bounty hunter craft, and the Thargoid raiders) were no longer part of the game. Coriolis stations could still be spotted around some of the more outback planets in the game.