Home What is a
Crew Patch?
Embroidered
Patches
Beta Cloth
Patches
Store Lion Brothers
Space Patches
< Menu

NASA insignia patches

Projects >

It may seem odd to include a section on NASA logo patches in a site dedicated to crew patches but the patch designs detailed below were either worn by the crews on their actual spacesuits (for the Mercury and Gemini projects and for Apollo 1) or worn on their flight suits immediately after the missions (from Apollo 7 onwards). To my mind this certainly makes them worthy of a place in any serious space patch collection.

After studying the best images I could find of the patches used on the various missions it's clear that at least four different patch designs have been used during the Mercury-Gemini-Apollo period. I refer to these designs as Types I, II, III and IV, with a fifth type thrown-in for good measure.

NASA Vector Patches

Patch id:

NASA Vector Patch - Type I

(Mercury Program : 1959-1963)
Worn by crew? Yes. Worn by the Mercury astronauts on their space suits.
Flown? Yes, on crew space suits.
Manufacturer: Unknown.
Distribution: Likely limited to NASA.
Dimensions: Body approx. 3" / 75mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Stitched border with cut edge.
Scarcity: Extremely rare. No examples sold in recent years.
Value: The most recent unflown examples to be sold fetched between $511 and $1000.
Notes:
This white bordered NASA insignia patch is the version worn by the astronauts during the Mercury program, as can be seen in the closeup photo details shown on the right.
Patch id:

NASA Vector Patch - Type II

(Gemini Program : 1964-1966)
Worn by crew? Yes. Worn by the Gemini astronauts on their space suits.
Flown? Yes, on crew space suits.
Manufacturer: Unknown.
Distribution: Likely limited to NASA.
Dimensions: Body approx. 3" / 75mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Stitched border with cut edge.
Scarcity: Extremely rare. Perhaps one or two examples sold in recent years.
Value: Examples have sold for $372 to $1351[1].
Notes:
This white bordered NASA insignia patch is the version worn by the astronauts during the Gemini program, as can be seen in the closeup photo details shown on the right.

Although very similar in appearance to the Type I patch, this design can be distinguished by slightly less bold lettering. In addition, where the Type I patch has an open V-shaped pattern of three stars under the right leg of the final "A" (pointing up to the right), the Type II patch has a fourth star which turns it into a diamond shape.

An example of the Type II patch that was apparently taken from one of Gus Grissom's Gemini 3 space suits is shown here. This scan was kindly provided by Mike Zolotorow.

Note that most examples of this patch have the top left corner of the final "A" bisected by the vector but a few have the vector completely overlaying the top corner (leaving no white thread visible to the upper left) and slightly more bold lettering. You can see this more clearly in this side-by-side image of patches sewn to James McDivitt's Gemini-era flight suits, from images kindly provided by Dave Keeler. Another example of this variant was sold recently on eBay which had apparently been sent by the Gemini X crew as a gift.

Patch id:

NASA Vector Patch - Type III

(Early Apollos : 1966-1969)
Worn by crew? Yes. Worn by the Apollo 1 astronauts on their space suits, and by the Apollo 7, 8, 9 and 11 crews on their post-flight jump suits.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Unknown.
Distribution: Likely limited to NASA.
Dimensions: Body approx. 3" / 75mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Stitched border with cut edge.
Scarcity: Extremely rare. No examples sold in recent years.
Value: No examples to base valuation on.
Notes:
For Apollo 1 the NASA logo patch used by the crews on their space suits was the white-bordered version shown here. The same design was used by the crews of Apollos 7, 8, 9 and 11 on their post-flight jump suits. Note that the Apollo 9 crew in fact had two different sets of jump suits, one with this patch and the other with the blue-bordered Type IV patch.

Although very similar in appearance to the Type II patch, this design can be distinguished by the fact that the top of the last "A" overlays the red vector, whereas in the earlier versions the red vector cuts through the top of the "A". The point of the vector is also thicker in this version than the earlier ones. Finally, the serif on the letter "N" is much more pronounced, with the top left of the "N" almost reaching the left border.

Patch id:

NASA Vector Patch - Type IV

[previously blue-bordered variant 2]
(Apollos : 1968-1971)
Worn by crew? Yes. Worn by the Apollo 9, 10, 12 and 14 crews on their post-flight jump suits.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Unknown
Distribution: Unknown.
Dimensions: Body 2&frac68;" / 67mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Stitched border with cut edge.
Scarcity: Rare.
Value: Examples have sold recently for $86 and $101[2]
Notes:
For Apollo 10, Apollo 12 and Apollo 14 the NASA logo patch used by the crews on their post-flight jump suits was the blue-bordered version shown here.

I had originally thought there was only one version of the blue-bordered NASA insignia patch used by the Apollo crews but in fact there are two distinct versions which I now identify as Type IV (previously identified as blue bordered variant 2) and Type V (the more common version).

The earliest appearance of the first version of the patch is probably in S68-46603 & 68H-730, which show the Apollo 7 crew in training in August 1968. Cunningham wears a blue bordered Type IV patch on his jump suit while the other two have the white bordered Type III patches.

Another early appearance is on the Apollo 8 recovery ship in December 1968. Photo 68-H-1415 shows Jim Lovell with astronaut Mike Collins who is wearing a blue-bordered Type IV patch on his jump suit.

The Type IV patch was worn by the Apollo 9 crew on one of the sets of blue flight suits they wore on the U.S.S. Guadalcanal at events after the recovery. The other set of flight suits had the white-bordered Type III patches.

The Type IV patch also appears to be the version worn by the Apollo 10 crew after that flight and is clearly identifiable on the flight suits worn by the Apollo 12 crew in quarantine, and on Roosa's flight suit after Apollo 14. Mitchell's patch is not clearly visible in the Apollo 14 photos I have and Shepard wore a white border patch on his flight suit (possibly a Type II Gemini-era version) as shown in KSC-71P-168.

I don't have good enough images of the NASA patches used by the Apollo 15 crew to know if they wore the Type IV or V patches, but on Apollo 13, 16 and 17 the crews wore the type V patches.

One of these patches, described as having been flown aboard Gemini 12, was sold at auction in 2007 by a relative of Buzz Aldrin. Whilst the Gemini 12 flown status is questionable it certainly seems likely to have come from Aldrin. The patch appears to have been removed from a garment, and may possibly have been used on a blue flight suit by Aldrin.

Patch id:

NASA Vector Patch - Type V

(Later Apollos : 1970-1972)
Worn by crew? Yes. Worn by the Apollo 13, 16 and 17 crews on their post-flight jump suits.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: AB Emblem
Distribution: Was available commercially.
Dimensions: Body approx. 3" / 76mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Stitched border with cut edge.
Scarcity: Fairly rare in bare back form.
Value: Examples have sold recently for $24 to $38[3]
Notes:
For Apollo 13 and Apollos 16 and 17 the NASA logo patch used by the crews on their post-flight jump suits was the blue-bordered version shown here.

Although very similar in appearance to the Type IV patch the Type V version can be differentiated by the much bolder large stars. The small star beneath the top-most large star is also displaced more to the right in this version and the two small stars inside the upper left end of the orbital ellipse are more widely separated.

This is the blue bordered patch that was apparently sold commercially by AB Emblem. Early cloth back versions of the commercial patch are thus the same as those worn by the later Apollo crews.

It should be noted that Jack Swigert wore a white border patch on his post-recovery flight suit as shown in 70-H-0641 , although he also wore a second suit with a Type V blue border patch that is visible in other post-recovery photos.

NASA Vector Patches used at the Dryden Flight Research Center

Although this site is concerned mainly with the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo projects, NASA research pilots at the Dryden Flight Research Center also wore NASA vector logo patches at times and it is interesting to include these vintage patches here.

From the available photographic evidence[Annex] it appears that at least two different vector patch designs were worn by NASA's research pilots from about 1960 onwards.

These two different patches are clearly shown in the photo on the right, taken in 1966 after the first flight of the HL-10. Bruce Peterson's flight suit has a large (roughly 4") NASA vector patch on the chest and a smaller (roughly 3") version on the shoulder.

These two patch designs do not match those used on the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, but are consistent in all appearances of the NASA vector patch at the DFRC in photos from 1960 through to at least 1972. The distinctive pattern of stars on the two sizes of DFRC patch is very similar, making it likely that the same manufacturer produced both designs for NASA. I've decided to refer to these designs (at least for now) as DFRC 4" and DFRC 3".

Patch id:

NASA Vector Patch - DFRC 4"

(DFRC : 1960 onwards)
Worn by crew? Yes, worn on some DFRC flight suits.
Flown? Yes, on some test flights, including the X-15 and LLRV.
Manufacturer: Unknown
Distribution: Likely limited to NASA DFRC
Dimensions: Body 4" / 101mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Stitched border with cut edge.
Scarcity: Extremely rare.
Value: A recent example sold for $103[4]
Notes:
The 4" diameter NASA vector patch worn by Neil Armstrong on his flight suit during his second X-15 flight on Dec 9, 1960 is visible in this photo.
Armstrong wore the same patch on his white flight suit during a flight of the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle in June 1969, as visible in photos and film taken at the time.

A variant of this patch design with slightly narrower lettering, but with an identical pattern of stars, appears to have been introduced by 1966 and can be seen as the larger of the two patches worn by Bruce Peterson on his HL-10 flight suit in the photo at the start of this section. The version with narrower lettering can be seen on the suits of various NASA research pilots in photos through to at least 1972[Annex].

These two variants may be analogous with the Type I and II vector patches used on the Mercury and Gemini programs respectively, where the earliest patch (1959-1963) had thicker lettering and the later version (1964-1966) narrower lettering.

Note that very similar-looking later versions of this patch exist with plastic coatings on the reverse, as noted in the Other Patches section below, so collectors need to be wary when looking to buy one of the extremely rare original patches.

Patch id:

NASA Vector Patch - DFRC 3"

(DFRC : 1960 onwards)
Worn by crew? Yes, worn on some DFRC flight suits.
Flown? Yes, on some test flights.
Manufacturer: Unknown
Distribution: Likely limited to NASA DFRC
Dimensions: Body 3" / 75mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Stitched border with cut edge.
Scarcity: Extremely rare.
Value: An example was sold recently for $180.45[5].
Notes:
This 3" diameter NASA vector patch was worn by Bruce Peterson on his shoulder in the 1966 photo above, as well as by John B. McKay in the photo from 1962 shown on the right.

According to Dryden historian Peter Merlin, examples of this particular patch were given to NASA personnel assigned to the X-15 project at Dryden in March 1960. X-15 personnel can be seen wearing the patch on their hats in photo E-6460. One of these hats, complete with its original patch, can be seen in this photo, courtesy of Peter Merlin.

It appears that the example shown in my scan has broader writing that the versions shown in most of the photos, so perhaps as with the 4" version there are at two variants with narrower and broader lettering. The layout of stars and all other details appear to be identical.

Other Embroidered NASA Insignia Patches

Patch id:

NASA Vector Patch - Type VI

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: AB Emblem
Distribution: Was available commercially.
Dimensions: 2¾" / 68mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Merrowed border with 'tail'.
Scarcity: Uncommon in bare back form.
Value: Bare cloth back examples sell for maybe $5-36[6].
Notes:

This smaller white-bordered version of the NASA vector patch is clearly visible in this photo on suit tech Joe Schmitt's hat during suiting-up activities prior to the Apollo 11 launch.

AWhat appears to be a similar patch is also visible on Jim McDivitt's coveralls in a NASA publicity film made prior to the launch of Apollo 9. The image is not very clear but the fine details look a little different from the version shown above.

Patch id:

White-bordered variant 1

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Likely Universal Commemorative
Distribution: Was available commercially.
Dimensions: 3" / 75mm
Type: Fully embroidered. Merrowed edge.
Scarcity: Uncommon.
Value: Examples have sold for between $5 and $26.50[7]
Notes:

I believe this patch was produced by Universal Commemorative of Los Angeles, CA, since I've seen it sold with their Apollo 11 and 12 patches several times.

My thanks to Peter Merlin for pointing out that this patch was used by the crew of Ironman One in the 1969 movie Marooned.

Patch id:

White-bordered variant 2

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Unknown
Distribution: Unknown
Dimensions: Unknown
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Stitched border with cut edge.
Scarcity: Very rare.
Value: Unknown.
Notes:

A white-bordered patch vintage patch which doesn't match any of the known crew versions. It is most similar to the DFRC 3" patch but the lettering is much skinnier than that visible in photos and the pattern of stars is subtly different. Image courtesy of Ron Goode.

Patch id:

White-bordered variant 3

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Unknown
Distribution: Unknown
Dimensions: Body 3" / 75mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Stitched border with cut edge.
Scarcity: Rare.
Value: Examples sold recently for $58 to $78[8]
Notes:

This white-bordered patch has only the point of the vector extending beyond the body of the patch, but is quite distinct from the Universal Commemorative version.

Patch id:

White-bordered variant 4

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Unknown
Distribution: Unknown
Dimensions: Body 2¾" / 70mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Stitched border with cut edge.
Scarcity: Rare.
Value: An example sold recently for $97[9]
Notes:

An example of this white-bordered patch came from the collection of a North American Aviation employee who worked on the Apollo project. The pattern of stars is quite distinct from any other white bordered variant.

Patch id:

White-bordered variant 5

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Unknown
Distribution: Unknown
Dimensions: Body 2¾" / 70mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Merrowed edge
Scarcity: Scarce
Value: An example sold recently for $12[10]
Notes:

This small version of the NASA insignia is seen infrequently. It is not known who produced it, although at least one example of this patch seems to have been used by Grumman.

Patch id:

White-bordered variant 6

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Unknown
Distribution: Unknown
Dimensions: Body 2¾" / 70mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Stitched border with cut edge.
Scarcity: Rare.
Value: Unknown
Notes:

An example of this white-bordered patch was seen on an old NASA JPL jacket. The most distinctive feature of this patch is the extra-thick ends of the tails of the red vector.




Patch id:

DFRC 4" replica patch

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Unknown
Distribution: Available commercially.
Dimensions: Body 4" / 100mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Stitched border with cut edge. Plastic coated back.
Scarcity: Unknown
Value: Unknown.
Notes: The design for this modern patch has clearly been copied directly from the original 4" Dryden patch. The modern version has a slick plastic backing and much sharper details as is typical of modern patches.
Patch id:

DFRC 3¾" coated patch

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Unknown
Distribution: Unknown
Dimensions: Body 3¾" / 89mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Stitched border with cut edge. Plastic coated back.
Scarcity: Unknown
Value: An example sold recently for $110.25[11]
Notes: This patch has the same design as the original 4" Dryden patch but the body measures 3¾" in diameter instead of 4". The patch has a slick plastic coating on the reverse which makes it a modern version (late '70s at the earliest).
Despite the size difference and the coated back the overall look of this patch is much closer to that of the vintage original 4" patches than the replica version shown on the left.
Patch id:

Flight Research Center patch

Worn by crew? Yes, this patch was worn by at least some NASA test pilots in the mid 70s as visible here.
Flown? Likely flown on flight suits during some test flights.
Manufacturer: Unknown
Distribution: Likely restricted to NASA personnel.
Dimensions: 5" / 122mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Stitched border with cut edge.
Scarcity: Extremely rare in original bare back form.
Value: Unknown.
Notes: This unusual Flight Research Center version of the NASA insignia is extremely rare in its original form, but a very convincing modern replica exists.



Patch id:

Blue-bordered variant 1

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Possibly AB Emblem
Distribution: Unknown
Dimensions: Body 2 5/8" / 67mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Stitched border with cut edge.
Scarcity: Rare.
Value: Unknown. An example sold recently for $?[12]
Notes:

This blue-bordered patch is similar to the Type IV but has extra stars in the lower left quadrant. An example was found recently which was apparently part of a set of patches distributed to collectors by AB Emblem in the early 70s. Also part of the set was a Type V meatball emblem.

This would maybe make it a later variant of Type IV or perhaps AB's first version of the vector patch. Either way it does not appear to have been used by any of the crews.

Patch id:

Blue-bordered variant 3

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Unknown
Distribution: Unknown
Dimensions: Body 2¾" / 68mm
Type: Partially embroidered on blue twill. Merrowed edge with 'tail'.
Scarcity: Unknown.
Value: Unknown.
Notes:

This is a blue-bordered version of the small Type V patch. Image courtesy of Ron Goode.

Patch id:

Blue-bordered variant 4

Worn by crew? No.
Flown? No.
Manufacturer: Unknown
Distribution: Unknown
Dimensions: Body 3" / 75mm
Type: Fully embroidered. Stitched border with cut edge.
Scarcity: Unknown.
Value: Unknown.
Notes:

Another blue bordered patch from an unknown manufacturer. This one stands out thanks to its fully embroidered background.

Footnotes

[1] Examples of NASA Vector Type II patch sales:
      eBay item no. 330285915180 Nov 16, 2008 sold at $405
      eBay item no. 220785605494 May 24, 2011 sold at $335.51 [On powder blue flight suit]
      Lunar Legacies Auction lot 109 Aug 20, 2011 sold at $1351.25 (inc fees)
      eBay item no. 130796843395 Nov 18, 2012 sold at $371.74 [variant style, with signed letter from Gemini X crew]
      eBay item no. 321022547194 Nov 19, 2012 sold at $699.00
      Regency/Superior Space Auction lot no. 121 May 24, 2013 sold at $476

[2] Examples of NASA Vector Type IV blue-bordered patch sales:
      Lunar Legacies Space Auction lot 42 Nov 20, 2011 sold at $86.25 (inc. fees)
      eBay item no. 360415923591 Dec 11, 2011 sold at $100.99
      eBay item no. 230719894648 Dec 19, 2011 sold at $10 [Buy-it-Now]

[3] Examples of NASA Vector Type V blue-bordered patch sales:
      eBay item no. 180812807021 Feb 8, 2012 sold at $36
      eBay item no. 140702544025 Feb 19, 2012 sold at $23.50
      eBay item no. 140739753014 Apr 22, 2012 sold at $37.59

[4] Examples of DFRC 4" patch sales:
      eBay item no. 360346225801 Feb 28, 2011 sold at $162.09 (2 identical examples poorly listed)
      eBay item no. 270736916959 Apr 22, 2011 sold at $75 [On jacket. Poorly listed]
      eBay item no. 360443552105 Mar 25, 2012 sold at $103.51 [Very light soiling]
      eBay item no. 360463571820 Jun 9, 2012 sold at $168.50 [Mounting traces to reverse]

[5] Examples of DFRC 3" patch sales:
      eBay item no. 250371300478 Feb 12, 2009 sold at $207.49
      eBay item no. 221301986650 Oct 27, 2013 sold at $180.45

[6] Examples of NASA Vector Patch - Type VI patch sales:
      eBay item no. 180812804166 Sep 4, 2011 sold at $36

[7] Examples of white-bordered variant 1 patch sales:
[Listings removed as too common to justify tracking]

[8] Examples of white-bordered variant 3 patch sales:
      eBay item no. 250825308005 May 30, 2011 sold at $98.99
      eBay item no. 180812807021 Feb 8, 2012 sold at $58
      eBay item no. 140855920381 Sep 30, 2012 sold at $78

[9] Examples of white-bordered variant 4 patch sales:
      eBay item no. 270958830771 Apr 23, 2012 sold at $97
      eBay item no. 270995839637 Jun 17, 2012 sold at $97

[10] Examples of white-bordered variant 5 patch sales:
      eBay item no. 251193360274 Dec 8, 2012 sold at $12.05

[11] Examples of DFRC 3¾" coated patch sales:
      eBay item no. 140842494575 Sep 9, 2012 sold at $110.25

[12] Examples of blue-bordered variant 1 patch sales:
      eBay item no. 400511400070 Jul 26, 2013 sold at $? [best offer]
      eBay item no. 360768617850 Jan 5, 2014 sold at $34.95

[Annex] Photos showing NASA vector patches worn by personnel at the Dryden Flight Research Center:

DateSubject Photo IdPatch Type
Dec 9, 1960Neil Armstrong with X-15 E60-6286 4" patch with broad lettering, on shoulder
Feb 7, 1961X-15 Personnel E-6460 3" patches on hats as in Peter Merlin's example above
Oct 17, 1962Milt Thompson & Grissom with Paresev E-8937 3" on shoulder
Oct 17, 1962John B McKay with F-104B E62-8947 3" on shoulder
Oct 30, 1964Joe Walker with LLRV ECN-453 3" on shoulder
Sep 22, 1966Bruce Peterson with M2-F2 ECN-1505 3" on shoulder
Dec 22, 1966Bruce Peterson with HL-10 E-16199 4" narrow lettering on chest & 3" patch on shoulder
Apr 15, 1969Bill Dana with HL-10 E-20288 4" narrow lettering
Apr 25, 1969Bill Dana with HL-10 E-20168 4" narrow lettering
Aug 6, 1969John A. Manke with HL-10 EC69-2247 4" narrow lettering
Dec 20, 1972John A Manke with M2-F3 ECN-3448 4" narrow lettering

< Menu [ Back to Top ] Projects >