Spacecraft Colors

(Updated 19 March 2013)


Federal Standard



Delta Blue

Federal Standard 595
Color 25193


“Delta 100, the first 2000-series Delta with an RS-27 engine, was the first to carry the blue paint. The shade of color in photos varied from yellowish green to blue depending on the lighting, film, and photo processing methods. The actual color is "Delta Blue", Federal Standard 595 color 25193, according to Kevin Forsyth.

The color adaptation came not long after McDonnell Douglas closed out its long-running Thor-Agena program for the U.S. Air Force. Thors were always white. Extended Tank Thor (Delta) production had moved from the old Santa Monica Douglas plant to the newer McDonnell Douglas facility at Huntington Beach, California. It was a time of change. NASA Goddard was still in charge of the program. Someone at NASA or McDonnell Douglas obviously wanted a change, possibly to differentiate Air Force from NASA rockets. I have no idea who the someone was, but my guess is either that they liked blue, or that they owned stock in a blue paint manufacturer!

One benefit of the blue paint, by the way, was that it made it easier to see the ice buildup as LOX was loaded - something tougher to see on a white-painted booster. There might also actually be a photographic technical reason for blue. In my work, I often use blue as a backdrop for macro photography.”

--Ed Kyle on (LINK)