I've built a Mun-orbiting science station to process all the experiments that I've gathered from surface and space around. Basically this is simple final-stage rocket with four 3x2 solar panels attached symmetrically around the lab.
When I got to actual processing, to the enormously slow data processing per se, a lack of solar power generation is added. Batteries are not a bottleneck of this design, as they don't charge to the max during sunny-time.

My small question is how much electricity do I need to keep a science lab up and running with full data & 2 scientist sciencing on it?

My bigger question is how to optimally place solar panels & which (3x2 or 1x6 or just cover the fuel tank with 1x1 panels?) so that they could be conveniently deployed and get the most suntime i.e. maximize electricity per panel per day and provide enough of so needed electricity for the lab?



The short answer is a Mobile Processing Lab uses approximately 5 units of electricity per second.

The long answer is a little more complex: Solar panel placement doesn't matter as much if your station is oriented in the right angle to catch maximum sunlight. What I mean is you can have all the solar panels in the world, but if they're on the shadow side of your station, they won't work.

Placement of solar panels

You should position your panels in a way that your orientation doesn't matter. I like to go with 4x symmetry and either the 1x6 or 2x3 panels, that way at least 2 panels are in some sun at all time. I prefer the 1x6 because they can stretch around from behind your station and still get some power.

Quadmounted solar panels

This method of panel placement works in all orientations, whether side on to the sun, even if it's rotated or if it's pointed toward or away from the sun.

Supply of electricity

Your other problem is getting enough electricity to power your station. The 6 square solar panels (both 2x3 and 1x6) will supply 1.64 electricity units per second when pointed at the sun from Kerbin orbit (it increases as you get closer to the sun and decreases further away).

1x6 solar panel2x3 solar panel

That means that you'll need two sets of four to get all the power you need.

OR... if you have unlocked the Gigantor XL solar panel, just one can supply 24 elec/second...

Gigantor XL solar panel *not to scale (this is huge)

A final word on the mobile processing lab

If you want to keep your station powered - don't land it! On the surface night lasts... all night (5 hours on minmus), that means 5 hours on batteries. The Mun is tidally locked to Kerbin which means Mun's night is 3 Kerbin days - that's a long time without electricity. In orbit, night can be a single minute (or less depending on your altitude).

  • I really like your answer more since its more explicitly answers my questions. Your radial-placement approach is exactly what I use now, but with a single set of four panels. Following up, is there an optimal minimal distance for space between them? (so that one set of panels does not block the other one). Sep 1 '15 at 19:10
  • Also, could 3-way / 5-way / 6-way .. symmetry be more efficient? Sep 1 '15 at 19:15
  • 1
    @SergiiZaskaleta The optimal way to place them is one set of 4 and then offset the next set by 45 degrees on the far side of the vessel. That way, if it faces directly into the sun, you'll get all 8 panels in full sunlight and you can minimise overlap. Three-way symmetry will fulfill the requirements for most vessels, heck, two-way symmetry will work 99% of the time. Six or Eight is even better, but remember that some panels will block others if you have a high symmetry. But I think 4 has a nice ascetic and fulfills the requirements of the questions, that's why I recommend it.
    – Coomie
    Sep 2 '15 at 1:19

Of course the more solar panels you have, the more electric charge you will generate, but all of the panels in the world won't help if your ship drifts out of alignment with the sun. If you don't check on it frequently, it's much better to have a variety of placements that will allow your ship to get sunlight in any orientation, but as I check on my surface and orbiting base almost daily, I made corrections to my orientation to maximize the sun exposure. That being said, I have two bases on Minmus (linked together into one base) with a total of 8 of the 3x2 panels, and enough batteries to keep 7200 units of charge, and even when the surface is in darkness with two science labs working, I never run out of charge.

enter image description here

I would think for an orbiting base, you should have even more sun exposure than my surface base, so that number of panels/batteries should be sufficient.

  • This can't be true. A functioning science lab uses 5 units of electricity per second and the Minmus' night lasts 5hours. 7200 unit batteries won't last. Do the math, and this can't be right.
    – Coomie
    Aug 31 '15 at 6:49
  • See comment about an orbiting ship getting more sun exposure than my Minmus base. Regardless, I don't see any dip in my science output, so honestly the math doesn't matter much to me. Even if one of the labs goes dark, it's for a short amount of time, it doesn't matter much to me because they are both providing tons of science for me.
    – Tim S.
    Aug 31 '15 at 15:35
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    The truth is that once a station is put on rails, it stops tracking the sunlight. As you switch away from it during the day, it will keep receiving the same power all night long unless you come to "visit it" at night.
    – SF.
    Sep 22 '15 at 14:40

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