Space Patches or mission patches have been around since 1963 when the first manned space missions took place. The embroidered patch is worn as a mission emblem by astronauts and others working on that mission. The designs of the patches are created specifically for each mission. Which are then used to identify the project the one who is wearing it works on, that is why the design changes per mission. The Astronauts wear the patch on their space suit when launched into space.
The origin of the space patches comes from the military background of early astronauts and cosmonauts. In the military, it’s very common to have an insignia to identify to which part you belong. At the beginning of space travel, astronauts were required to have a military background. So, they took the tradition of the military shoulder patches with them and the space patches emerged.
Since the mid-80s most US space missions have had dedicated designs. The Russian space program also featured mission logos from the beginning of the 80’s however, only from 1994 onward every manned launch featured a space patch.
In modern day the space patches have also been adopted by the ESA and private companies like Space X. Which results in a huge number of different designs in use today. Besides, there are even fan made patches to celebrate the different space missions.
There are different types of patches made for different occasions or missions, for example:
- Agency patch: Used to recognize the agency (Like NASA, ESA or Space X);
- Mission patch: Designed for a manned space mission (also called crew patch);
- Payload patch: Used for specific payloads carried to space (Like the Tesla);
- ISS Expedition patch: For the crew on board the ISS, differentiating for Soyuz and Space shuttle missions;
- Project patch: Used for different programs, experiments and spaceflights (the FH);
- Astronaut group patch: Made for a particular ‘class’ featuring the year of selection;
- Personal patch: Designed for individual astronauts, mostly not publicized;
- Commemorative patches: Many patches featured on this page are commemorative with no specific mission use. Often these feature spaceships, planets, rockets, stars or satellites.
There are a lot of collectors for the different patches, with different ‘values’. Like the best patches are the ones worn by astronauts in space. The second-best patches were brought into space for ‘goodie purposes. Most patches have been widely available to the public, which ultimately resulted in a lower value. However, the older vintage examples are not as easy to come by and therefor more desired. Chinese crew patches are very scarce and only available through contacts in the Chinese aerospace industry.
Patches & Space X
Space X has already made numerous patches, for every mission a different patch. There is a strong trend in the design of the patches with most containing:
- The rocket that is used (and its name);
- The Satellite which is sent to space;
- The Earth;
- The Program / mission name.
The outer shapes differ a lot. They go from round to square to hexagon and everything in between.
How to apply a space patch
Most patches are heat-sealed, this means there is a bit of glue on the back which can be activated by heat. The obvious way to do this is by ironing it on your clothes. Put your item on an ironing board and position the patch on the item of clothing exactly where you want it. Make sure the clothing is flat so the patch sticks well. Place another piece of cloth over the patch (to protect it from the heat) and then start pressing with the iron, make sure to press evenly to spread the heat. When you’re done, remove the piece of cloth and check if it sticks. So go ahead and choose your favorite patch!