I'm curious about images (or videos) that a) Include both a portion of the vehicle and its re-entry plasma wake, and b) That were taken at near-orbital (high-hypersonic) velocities or greater.

I suspect that such images (or videos) would be invaluable to the designers of thermal protection systems and radios.

Capturing such images may have been possible with a vehicle such as the Space Shuttle.

Possibly also relevant: Two vehicles reentering in tandem and taking images of each other. Use of a very powerful telescope to film (or photograph) a vehicle from a distance during reentry.

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  • $\begingroup$ The only other unclassified vehicle with the geometry to do this is the Space Shuttle. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Mar 16 at 3:06
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ related, but maybe not so much as to make it an answer: space.stackexchange.com/questions/18932/… $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Commented Mar 16 at 3:25
  • $\begingroup$ I think it makes the answer a yes for "selfie", but the image doesn't show the re-entry plasma wake for some reason, just the hotspots on the Shuttle's wing. $\endgroup$
    – phil1008
    Commented Mar 16 at 6:13

2 Answers 2


Although it doesn't exactly match your question requirements, in the early days of the Shuttle program Columbia had an instrument mounted on its tail known as the SILTS pod (Shuttle Infrared Leeside Temperature Sensing) which took infrared photos of the orbiter during reentry.

SILTS pod on Columbia (NASA)

SILTS image STS-28 reentry SILTS image (NASA)

The infrared camera could rotate and look through one of two windows, one faced the backside of the orbiter's fuselage, and the other window faced the left wing. The left wing was chosen because it was already wired up with sensors from Columbia's earlier role as a test vehicle. The sensors in Columbia's wing could be correlated with the infrared images.

EDIT - after posting this answer I noticed that @ErinAnne mentioned SILTS in a comment to your question.

For your "possibly also relevant" question, there have been cases where the crew onboard ISS was able to photograph the reentry of departing Progress and Soyuz spacecraft.

One such situation was the reentry of Soyuz TMA-20M in 2016, the photo below was taken by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins from onboard ISS:

TMA-20 reentry Soyuz TMA-20M reentry (NASA)

There was another similar mission where this occurred, I don't remember which one, and I remember a NASA astronaut saying that he was able to make out all three of the Soyuz modules (service module, descent module, orbital module) reentering separately. I remember he commented that it was pretty obvious looking at it which one you wanted to be in.


Several of the Apollo missions filmed their reentry using the 16mm film camera, looking out of one of the CM windows.

Example: Apollo 15.

A few weeks ago, Varda released a recording of the full reentry of its W-1 spacecraft.

Various Shuttle missions recorded their reentry from the cockpit:

Here's Orion reentering at the end of EFT-1:

NASA uses WB-57 high-altitude aircraft to follow launches and reentry. Here's the Starship IFT-2 flight filmed by a WB-57.

And here's a Falcon 9 first stage reentering, filmed by a WB-57:

WB-57 filmed the reentry of Starliner:

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ and Artemis 1: youtube.com/watch?v=NhbmiFzu2SM $\endgroup$
    – quinnkenri
    Commented Mar 16 at 22:29
  • $\begingroup$ @quinnkenri Very cool video. Definitely worth a watch. Thanks for posting! $\endgroup$
    – phil1008
    Commented Mar 16 at 23:00

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