Solar panels on real-life spacecrafts : single or dual-sided ?

N_Molson

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I've decided to open the can of worms that's texturing and materials properties... Right now I have a "technical" question :

Are solar panels used on spacecrafts single or dual-sided ? Should they look the same on both faces ?

In some games like say KSP they decided to make the "backside" grey and opaque. But from what I've read here and there its not how things are in real life. It seems that the ISS solar arrays can generate a significant amount of power with the light from the planet albedo, the light reflected by the Earth's surface - mostly water and clouds - (if the ISS is between the Sun and the Earth, one side of the panels generates power from direct sunlight and the other side also generates some power with the planet albedo).

Now maybe dual sided panels are some kind of high-tech, and one-sided would be a cheaper alternative ? I have no idea ; I know nearly nothing about engineering especially when it comes to complex electronics like photovoltaic cells. I guess I could find some junk that has solar cells, break it and see how its done but that would take some time, and that would be very low-end technology which might not be conclusive in regard of space applications.
 

Urwumpe

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They should be single sided, if you pay attention, you can notice that the real world spacecraft have different structures on each side. For example here, you can see the printed "wiring" of the PV cells of the ISS:


Because the ISS solar arrays are so thin and transparent, the solar array DOES generate up to 1/3rd of the rated power from the illumination of the backside. Enough shines through the material to produce power in the very thin semiconductor layer on top of the thin substrate.
 

N_Molson

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Thanks ! So something like circuitry on the backside.
 

Moach

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You're gonna have to have some arrangement to pivot them around and point at the sun anyways (even if its just turning the whole craft about itself) - May as well save the weight of making them two-sided. That would basically mean a second set of panels on the other side

But what's the use of that? It's not like you got more than one sun lying around in these parts of the galaxy, so one side is generally good enough to cover the amount of conveniently nearby star-sized light sources...
 
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