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enter image description here

Some of the solar panel arrays I've seen on satellites are arranged in this weird zig-zag pattern.

Even when they're fully deployed they still have this arrangement. Why? What's the benefit from doing this?

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    $\begingroup$ That's artwork maybe from the cover of digitalmedia.hr/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/…. Have you seen this configuration on actual satellites? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Apr 15, 2023 at 1:01
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    $\begingroup$ Highly related, possible duplicate space.stackexchange.com/q/63210/6944 $\endgroup$ Apr 15, 2023 at 1:20
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh I have, that was just the first picture I grabbed $\endgroup$ Apr 15, 2023 at 11:09
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    $\begingroup$ When we "grab" images that don't belong to us personally, here in Stack Exchange the absolute minimum we must do is attribute the image to the source where you got it. Otherwise it's considered plagiarism and Stack Exchange takes that very seriously - your post can get deleted or worse. You should mention exactly which satellite this is, and credit the source of the image. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Apr 15, 2023 at 12:29

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Extensible solar panels are usually designed with a scissor mechanism. Due to geometry, scissor mechanism members cannot rotate a full 90* without pivot interference. As a result, panels can either fold flat or extend flat but not both. Compact volume when retracted is chosen over full extension. The small angulation between panels when extended has (almost) no effect on their functionality.

https://www.justdial.com/jdmart/Mumbai/Scissor-Mechanism/pid-2022657235/020PXX20-XX20-200320234009-Y8U6

Also, scissor mechanisms lose rigidity as they are extended. If it could be fully extended, rigidity would be close to zero, like a bicycle chain.

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    $\begingroup$ "Extensible solar panels are usually designed with a scissor mechanism" Citation Needed on that. I thought most modern deployable solar panels just have motorized "joints" that power the unfolding. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Apr 15, 2023 at 18:11

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