U.S. Space Force logo: More about the ‘delta’ symbol

Above: The United States Space Force logo and motto.

21 October 2020 | Much has been made of the decision taken to employ a delta symbol for the new U.S. Space Force (USSF), which operates within the U.S. Air Force (USAF) much as the U.S. Marine Corps’ relates to the U.S. Navy. The symbolism is clearly visible on the USSF seal, ensign, current senior enlisted rank insignia, and in the service’s organizational command structure. Furthermore, recently  (21 October 2020) Lieutenant-General Stephen N. Whiting became the commander of the USSF’s Space Operations Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado; the delta is, as one would expect, prominent in the logo. Some pundits are of the opinion that the adopted symbol is inappropriately appropriated from the ‘Star Fleet’ emblem regularly seen in the 1960s television series Star Trek. (Readers are directed to the Space.com article U.S. Space Force says its new seal is not a Starfleet knockoff.) Is this the case and is the ‘delta’ appropriate for USSF adoption?

USSF’s Space Operations Command logo. Image: USSF.
USSF Shield. Source: USSF.

USSF officials contend (see the Defense.com post Space Force Flag Unveiled at White House) the criticisms are without merit. In fact, USAF connections to outer space and deltas go back to the beginnings of the ‘Space Race’ in the 1950s and early 1960s. By 1953 the positive aspects of delta aerofoils/airfoils were incorporated into various flying machine designs that entered USAF service. The delta aerofoil, which is shaped like a triangle, gets its moniker from the Greek uppercase letter delta (Δ). This design possesses noteworthy advantages for designers of high-speed aerial vehicles.

The Mercury Seven stand in front of a USAF F-106B on 20 January 1961. NASA photo s61_01250.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Mercury 7 astronauts, who were announced and introduced to the public in 1959, were turbojet fighter or fighter-bomber pilots. During their tenures with NASA piloting delta-winged interceptors helped to maintain necessary and critical piloting skills. The group of delta-equipped jets entering the USAF inventory before and during the decade included the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger [1953], Convair F-106 Delta Dart [1956] interceptor, and Convair B-58 Hustler [1956] supersonic bomber. Notably, the 14 September 1959 issue of Life magazine featured articles about the astronauts and contained photographs of Alan B. Shepherd, a U.S. Navy officer, within a USAF F-102 cockpit after a flight.

Astronaut Alan Shepard in Convair F-102. Photo: Life magazine 14 September 1959 issue.

The F-102 was barely supersonic, and NASA therefore obtained speedier USAF F-106s and according to the NASA, the agency possessed “a handful of F-106s were retained . . . for test [the Eclipse programme] purposes through 1998.”

NASA QF-106 Delta Dart of the Eclipse programme. NASA photo by Jim Ross 12 February 1997.

An ancillary connection to the flying machines referenced above was established by John Dyke, a civilian employee of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The Dyke Delta JD1 first flew on 17 July 1962. The JD2, a larger and more powerful mark, first took wing on 19 July 1966. Online at least two statements contend that the JD-2 structure was evaluated at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s Structural Laboratory and the University of Utah. However, Military Aviation Chronicles contacted John Dyke and the designer stated that if the aforementioned information was true he was unaware of the testing.

Dyke Delta owned by Dave Williams flying over the Florida Everglades in 2017. Source: Dyke Delta Facebook page.

When considering the appropriateness of the delta symbol for USSF, one should also not forget the Delta launch vehicles which continue to play important roles in USAF and USSF operations. The Boeing.com Delta Rocket webpage states the following: “Delta’s history stretches back to the late 1950s when the U.S. government, responding to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in 1957, contracted for development of the rocket. These early Delta rockets derived their design from the Thor, USAF’s intermediate-range ballistic missile. The first successful Delta launch was of NASA’s ‘Echo 1A‘ satellite on Aug. 12, 1960.”

A Thor-Delta 316 launches with the Telstar 1 satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 17B on 10 July 1962. NASA photo 671418.

Subsequently, the ‘Telestar 1‘ satellite was launched from USAF’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on 10 July 1962. The USSF 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida continues to rely upon ‘Delta IV’ and ‘Delta IV Heavy’ launch vehicles.

A close-up view of the Service Dress Coat worn by  Space Force Senior Enlisted Advisor Chief Master Sergeant Roger Towberman at the White House on 15 May 2020. Photo by Shealah Craighead of the White House VIRIN 200515-O-ZZ999-234.

USAF’s former Space Command was redesignated, at the urging of President Donald J. Trump,  as USSF on 20 December 2019. USAF is, through its USSF associate, continuing to work amongst the stars and the legacies of the delta’s connections will thereby forever be emblematically displayed.

USSF flag. USSF image 200515-O-ZZ999-123C.


The author (John T. Stemple) is an Aerospace Education Member (AEM) of the Civil Air Patrol, which is the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary. He thanks Dyke Delta designer John Dyke and Linda Ball, who is the Administrator of the Dyke Delta Aerospace Company’s Facebook page, for their cooperation.

Sources and Suggested Readings

45th Space Wing (Source: Wikipedia)

60 Years Ago: NASA Introduces Mercury 7 Astronauts (Source: NASA)

About Space Operations Command (Source: U.S. Space Force Operations Command)

Aeronautical Systems Center (Source: Wikipedia)

Air Force Space Command (Source: The former U.S. Air Force Space Command)

Air Force Space Command (Source: Wikipedia)

Astronaut Alan Shepard and Convair F-102 Delta Dagger – Life magazine 14 September 1959 (Source: Jet Pilot Overseas)

Convair B-58 Hustler (Source: Wikipedia)

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger (Source: Wikipedia)

Convair F-106 Delta Dart (Source: Wikipedia)

Convair YF-102 Delta Dagger Image Gallery (Source: NASA)

Delta IV (Source: Wikipedia)

Delta Rocket (Source: Boeing)

Delta wing (Source: Wikipedia)

Douglas A-4 Skyhawk (Source: Wikipedia)

Dyke Delta (Source: Wikipedia)

Dyke Delta Aerospace Company (Source: Facebook)

Echo 1 (Source: Wikipedia)

F-106 (Source: NASA Langley Research Center Cultural Resource Management Program)

Going Supersonic (1945-1958) – Chapter 3 (Source: NASA Headquarters)

John and Jennie Dyke (Source: Wikipedia)

List of delta-wing aircraft (Source: Wikipedia)

List of NASA aircraft (Source: Wikipedia)

Mercury Seven (Source: Wikipedia)

NASA (Source: Wikipedia)

NASA (Source: NASA)

President Donald J. Trump (Source: Facebook)

Quest for Performance: The Evolution of Modern Aircraft Part II: The Jet Age Chapter 10: Technology of the Jet Airplane Wings and Configurations for High-Speed Flight (Source: NASA)

Space Force activates first field command (Source: USSF)

Space Force Continues Delta Theme with New Logo (Source: Air Force Magazine)

Space Force Flag Unveiled at White House (Source: U.S. Government Defense website)

Space Force Launches New Operations Branch (Source: Air Force Magazine)

Space Force Senior Enlisted Advisor Chief Master Sergeant Roger Towberman (Source: USSF)

Space Operations Command (Source: USSF)

Space Operations Command (Source: Wikipedia)

Supersonic Aerodynamics of Delta  Wings (Source: NASA Scientific and Technical Information Program NASA Technical Reports)

Telstar 1 (Source: Wikipedia)

The Mercury Astronauts (Source: NASA)

The Rest of the Story: Dyke Delta N1AW (Source: Experimental Aircraft Association)

The US Space Force now has a flag. Here it is. (Source: Space.com)

This Day in Aviation: 12 August 1960 (Source: This Day in Aviation website)

This Day in Aviation: 10 July 1962 (Source: This Day in Aviation website)

Trump unveils new Space Force logo (yes, it looks like something from ‘Star Trek’ (Source: Space.com)

Trump’s Space Force Logo Was Apparently a Surprise to the Pentagon (Source: Washingtonian website)

United States Space Force (Source: Wikipedia)

United States Space Force rank insignia (Source: Wikipedia)

United States Space Force (Source: U.S. Space Force)

U.S. Space Force says its new seal is not a Starfleet knockoff (Source: SpaceNews.com)

US Space Force logo draws comparisons to ‘Star Trek’ (Source: Yahoo News)

U.S. Space Force Fact Sheet (Source: U.S. Space Force)

What is the ‘Space Force’ and how will it fit into the US military? (Source: Fox News)