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According to ESA:

A sudden small power reduction was observed in a solar array of Sentinel-1A, orbiting at 700 km altitude, at 17:07 GMT on 23 August. Slight changes in the orientation and the orbit of the satellite were also measured at the same time.

Following a preliminary investigation, the operations team at ESA’s control centre in Darmstadt, Germany suspected a possible impact by space debris or micrometeoroid on the solar wing.

Detailed analyses of the satellite’s status were performed to understand the cause of this power loss. In addition, the engineers decided to activate the board cameras to acquire pictures of the array. These cameras were originally carried to monitor the deployment of the solar wings, which occurred just a few hours after launch in April 2014, and were not intended to be used afterwards.

Following their switch-on, one camera provided a picture that clearly shows the strike on the solar panel.

Of course all Mars rovers's cameras are incredibly useful for monitoring the rover's condition and were almost certainly essential for their long mission lives, but I'm interested in applications in space.

According to this answer, despite the substantial and mechanically complex series of events that allow the [JWST] to unfold and deploy both a giant, precision optical system and a giant multi-layered heat shield, there does not appear to be a plan to add self-monitoring cameras to it.

So: I am wondering how common it is for (at least recent) spacecraft to have "selfie cams" or status, health, self-inspection or function verification cameras which can provide ground personnel with images.

enter image description here

above: Photo credit: ESA, from SENTINEL-1A Fragment Impact in Space. Open this image in separate tab for large size.

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  • $\begingroup$ To get pictures from all sides of the spacecraft, the "selfie cams" should be mounted on a long robotic arm with many joint bearings to reach all points of interest. But what if an important view is possible only by dismounting some cover panels? $\endgroup$ – Uwe Jan 24 '17 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe I didn't specify extent or ask if it is a good idea. I found one example of a spacecraft capable of taking a photo of itself and am simply asking how common this actually is. Let's leave discussions and arguments about the idea for the upcoming question. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 24 '17 at 9:42
  • $\begingroup$ Personally, I believe the best "selfie cams" would be tiny drones with maybe 1m/s worth of delta-V in electric solid propellant microthrusters, 15-meter range radio (Bluetooth?) and a permanent magnet based "docking port" (undockable through activation of an electromagnet on board, momentarily repulsing the drone from docking area). The whole thing should be under 100 gram with another 100 gram of probe-side "back end". $\endgroup$ – SF. Jan 24 '17 at 11:58
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I am asking how common it is for spacecraft to be equipped with cameras that can images at least parts of themselves. While they might be "selfie cams" or status, health, self-inspection or function verification cameras, or they might be something else entirely, for the purposes of this question, it doesn't necessarily matter. I've kept the scope of this particular question narrow. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 24 '17 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ Good question! The latest chinese space station even has a companion satelline that can fly around the station and take pictures. I think most satellites have plenty of telemetry available and the added value of taking picture is extremely low. The example you mentioned actually proves that they knew what it was, the camera just provided additional evidence. I think that adding cameras provides very little value from a scientific point of view plus extra weight and complexity. However, for a broader audience having more images and videos of a satellite or a rocket is definitely a good idea. $\endgroup$ – pastullo Jan 24 '17 at 17:55
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In my experience it is very uncommon for spacecraft to have cameras for self-inspection. For most missions it is not particularly justified since there are much simpler methods to get the telemetry needed. Sentinel-1 had a particularly complex deployment (see Sentinel-1 performs opening dance routine) which no doubt justified something more sophisticated.

The only other case I've come across is ISRO deployment cameras on RESOURCESAT-2A.

On the other hand, I'm aware of operations people who have this sort of facility on their wish list even for simple deployments. So, maybe it is something that will used more in the future.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for those links, and welcome to stackexchange!. I was wondering why Sentinel-1 in particular had such cameras. Also it's good to know that ISRO is doing this too. I see now that they have several videos from various spacecraft status cameras posted in YouTube. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 25 '17 at 0:39
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh For Resourcesat-2A deployment was caught from camera on fourth stage as seen here. isro.gov.in/pslv-c36-resourcesat-2a/… Russian satellites in future might have dedicated self visual inspection system tass.com/science/942305 $\endgroup$ – Ohsin Apr 21 '17 at 1:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Ohsin good catches - both by you and by the fourth stage! ;) $\endgroup$ – uhoh Apr 21 '17 at 1:48
  • $\begingroup$ I'm un-accepting this answer for now, as it seems there are more and more equally informative answers popping up. Thanks again for this contribution! $\endgroup$ – uhoh May 8 '17 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ WHY do they not have a few cameras dotted around? Modern cameras are tiny and weigh basically nothing. $\endgroup$ – Innovine May 8 '17 at 16:25
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I have just run across the following "first" in satellite selfie history:

From a Feb. 24, 2000 Hughes Space and Communications News Release, as found in Spaceflight Now Camera sees giant Hughes satellite deploying its wings

For the first time from space, video images have been captured of a commercial satellite unfolding its purple-hued solar wings in orbit more than 22,000 miles above Earth.

When extended, the wingspan of the satellite approximates that of a Boeing 737 jetliner.

enter image description here enter image description here

Black-and-white photo shows fully deployed solar wing with four panels and associated concentrators. These concentrators are innovations for the Hughes HS 702 satellite, to concentrate more of the sun's energy on the highly efficient gallium arsenide solar cells. Photo: Hughes

Photo taken by camera on board the Galaxy 11 Hughes HS 702 satellite shows solar wing as it unfolds, and solar concentrators being deployed along the third and fourth solar panels on the wing. Photo: Hughes

enter image description here

Hughes HS 702 compared to 737 aircraft. Photo: Hughes

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It seems that BepiColombo Spacecraft Snaps Its First Selfie From Space on Its Way to Mercury is actually BepiColombo's First Image from Space.

In fact, the spacecraft has three dedicated self-monitoring cameras! See below.

enter image description here

The BepiColombo Mercury Transfer Module (MTM) has returned its first image from space. The view looks along one of the extended solar arrays, which was deployed earlier this morning and confirmed by telemetry. The structure in the bottom left corner is one of the sun sensors on the MTM, with the multi-layered insulation clearly visible.

The transfer module is equipped with three monitoring cameras, which provide black-and-white snapshots in 1024 x 1024 pixel resolution. The other two cameras will be activated tomorrow and are expected to capture images of the deployed medium- and high-gain antennas onboard the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO).

The monitoring cameras will be used on various occasions during the cruise phase, notably during the flybys of Earth, Venus and Mercury. While the MPO is equipped with a high-resolution scientific camera, this can only be operated after separating from the MTM upon arrival at Mercury in late 2025 because, like several of the 11 instrument suites, it is located on the side of the spacecraft fixed to the MTM during cruise.

BepiColombo launched at 01:45 GMT on 20 October on an Ariane 5. BepiColombo is a joint endeavour between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA. It is the first European mission to Mercury, the smallest and least explored planet in the inner Solar System, and the first to send two spacecraft to make complementary measurements of the planet and its dynamic environment at the same time.

More about the monitoring cameras.

Image below has been reduced in size:

enter image description here

The Mercury Transfer Module of the BepiColombo mission is equipped with three monitoring cameras (M-CAM), which provide black-and-white snapshots in 1024 x 1024 pixel resolution. The positions of the three cameras are indicated with the orange icons, and example fields of views are illustrated.

M-CAM 1 looks down the extended solar array of the MTM, while M-CAM 2 and 3 are looking towards the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO). The MPO’s medium-gain antenna and magnetometer boom can be seen in M-CAM 2, once deployed. M-CAM 3 has the possibility to see the MPO’s high-gain antenna. Since all deployable parts of the spacecraft are rotatable, a range of orientations may be seen in the actual images.

The first sets of images are expected to be taken about 12 hours and 1.5 days after launch.

Click here for a timeline of activities immediately following launch.

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    $\begingroup$ Why's this sitting at -1? Seems to fit here. $\endgroup$ – Magic Octopus Urn Oct 22 '18 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ Fairly certain thats grounds for account termination. Post on the meta SE for generic SE and ask that someone check who is following all of your posts and downvoting for personal reasons instead of content. $\endgroup$ – Magic Octopus Urn Oct 22 '18 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ heh, sure, wasn't arguing for the merit of the internet, just arguing for the merit of quality content that you usually provide. Shame to have someone belittle that. $\endgroup$ – Magic Octopus Urn Oct 23 '18 at 2:23
  • $\begingroup$ @MagicOctopusUrn I'm cleaning up comments not related to the post. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 23 '18 at 2:28
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And there's this one found in ESA's Rosetta Blog :

Rosetta and Philae Snap Selfie at Comet

Using the CIVA imaging system on board Rosetta’s lander Philae, the spacecraft have snapped a ‘selfie’ at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

[...] The latest selfie was taken during Sunday night from a distance of about 50 km from the comet, with one of CIVA-P’s cameras capturing the side of the Rosetta spacecraft and one of its 14 metre-long solar arrays, with 67P/C-G in the background.

Rosetta and Philae Snap Selfie at Comet

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  • $\begingroup$ oooooo, that's a real beauty, I love it! I've added image and short description here so if the link ever breaks future readers can still enjoy it. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 23 '18 at 1:04
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  • Shuttle always had payload bay cameras and (if the arm was flown) wrist-and-elbow mounted cameras on the robot arm. This allowed "selfies" of much of the vehicle, but by no means all. After the STS-107 accident, a boom-mounted camera and sensor system was added, which, when grappled by the arm, allowed all of the vehicle's thermal protection system that was critical for entry to be imaged.

    enter image description here

  • The Bigelow Aerospace Genesis inflatable test spacecraft included many selfie cameras. Including 'meta' space selfies, taking pictures of employee's pictures which were projected onto the exterior of the craft.

enter image description here

Source

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure what to do in this case, I've un-accepted that answer because it looks like there will be many equally informative answers. Don't know if a wiki format is better, never sure what to do when there are multiple good answers. Certainly the camera on the boom is the closest thing to a selfi camera on a selfi stick there has been though! $\endgroup$ – uhoh May 8 '17 at 5:01
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh No need for wiki, if there is not one most helpful answer then you simply don't accept any. If you feel the need to credit them in some way, you can always give them a bounty. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage May 8 '17 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ I cringe to think what fodder the conspiracy theorists will make of the ISS projecting images in space. Nonetheless, cool image! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 23 '18 at 2:22
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    $\begingroup$ That was Bigelow's spacecraft, not the ISS! $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Oct 23 '18 at 2:39
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, sorry! Okay that's less worrisome. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 25 '18 at 16:56

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