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South Carolina company helps with first manned launch in nearly a decade

North Carolina company sewing mission patches for NASA's first manned launch since 2011.
North Carolina company sewing mission patches for NASA's first manned launch since 2011. (WLOS-TV)

An exciting, final step for the United States’ return to launching flights into space is set to take place next week.

The NASA DM-2, part of NASA’s commercial crew program, is a joint effort between NASA and SpaceX. The launch set for May 27 is the final test before the Dagon rocket is cleared for regular, long-term missions into space.

A small company in the South Carolina mountains will have a part in this first manned space launch from U.S. soil since the ending of the space shuttle program. Weaverville’s A-B Emblem is the exclusive supplier for NASA mission patches and several other government agencies.

Company co-CEO Andrew Nagle told WLOS-TV in Greenville-Spartanburg that for the first time since STS-135, the 135th and final mission of the American Space Shuttle program in 2011, astronauts are going to be launched into space from U.S. soil, and their patches will be going too.

“It kind of humbles us to go,” Nagle says. “We’re just making a patch.”

"We’ve been working on this since July of last year, Nagle continues. “There was a lot of back and forth because, you know, SpaceX has a trademark name.”

Nagle says A-B Emblem is a family business and that it was started by his grandfather-in-law Henry Conrad who had come to the United States from Germany in the 1920′s. Conrad’s family had been embroiders for two previous generations and he turned that skill set into a business.

“They were running the first NASA patch which was the meatball,” Nagle says. “And all of a sudden it was like, ‘holy cow, we’ve helped make the first NASA patch.’ That pride never left. It permeated out throughout the the factory workers, the people who actually make it. When they’re running space emblems, you know, you can tell, when you walk the factory floor and they’re making them, there’s just a little bit of, little bit in their step that says, ‘you know, this could go into space.’”

Nagle said the shape of the patch is the dragon capsule and that the commander is allowed to design the patch.

"There's a lot of hidden, little messages in their patches, little things that mean so much to them," Nagle says. "I mean they put their life on the line, the patch I think empowers them a little bit."

He says the patches are dimensional and have a feel to them.

“I think they tell a story and then I think they bring an emotional element,” Nagle says. “When people see it they go, ‘I went to the Grand Canyon, I saw that launch.’ As an American I’m excited.”

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