Swarm Intelligence

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Swarms operate with a greater intelligence than any individual member. Image Credit: Neels Castillon Swarm intelligence is becoming a very common subject in the commercial space economy. There are incredibly high costs associated with doing just about anything in space, and swarms may hold the solution to this problem. We will take asteroid mining as the example. Several firms have emerged in the past few years with the stated goal of enabling asteroid mining. Space mining, while technically feasible, is often dismissed due to the incredibly large cost associated with mining something very far away with large, expensive robotic craft. However, if we can lower the cost of manufacturing spacecraft through 3D printing, economies of scale, and private innovation, things begin to change. Skybox, PlanetLabs and Planetary Resources are already establishing a new paradigm in low cost spacecraft manufacturing and deployment. Once we have access to low cost spacecraft, we can apply swarm intelligence to make difficult tasks, such as asteroid mining, much more feasible and successful. Swarms of robotic spacecraft can encircle an asteroid deep in space and process raw materials and water for delivery back to Earth orbit. Even if several spacecraft are lost, the mission can still be completed. Once these resources are delivered back to Earth orbit, swarms of 3D printing spiders working as a collective group can begin constructing massive orbital structures at a fraction of the cost compared to launching them from Earth.