Space Exploration Through Self-Replication Technology Compensates for Discounting in Net Present Value Cost-Benefit Analysis: A Business Case?
Self-replication technology is a little known technology that is currently under development and that has enormous implications for affordable space exploration. In particular, the prospect of 3D printing of actuators and electronics offers the prospect of realizing a universal constructor, which is the basis of a self-replicating machine. The universal constructor is a general-purpose automated factory that is supported by a number of robotic devices. If programmed appropriately, it can manufacture a copy of itself (as well as other products). We present an overview of self-replication research and its application to colonization of the Moon at very low cost - it offers a means to overcome the high cost of launch through exponential exploitation of in situ resources. Combined with in situ resource utilization, a universal constructor can construct (in theory) almost any product within certain constraints. Indeed, its productivity dwarfs any potential cost reductions in launch costs. We shall focus on defining several critical technological developments. It has potential commercial applications in extremely low-cost manufacturing of solar power satellites for clean energy production for the Earth. Self-replication capability offers a mechanism for offsetting discounting of future revenue (as computed by net present value cost-benefit analysis) by generating exponentially increasing revenue over time. It represents a "Bold" (as advocated by Peter Diamandis) approach for a start-up company, toward which steps are being taken. These steps will be discussed in detail. However, the revolutionary economics will make it challenging to attract capital investment despite eliminating the discounting effect. Nevertheless, a business case can be made despite a long-time horizon of investment due to numerous progressive spin-off applications. Over the long term, self-replication technology could revolutionize space exploration by providing for remote construction of complete (although simple) spacecraft in large numbers from in situ resources. By virtue of this massive productive capacity offered by self-replication technology, missions that are currently considered too expensive or impractical become feasible, for example, space-based geoengineering, asteroid exploitation and/or mitigation, and difficult outer planet locations such as Enceladus, interstellar precursor missions, etc.
|Keywords||in situ resource utilization, robotic planetary infrastructure, self-replicating machines, universal constructor|
Ellery, A. (2017). Space Exploration Through Self-Replication Technology Compensates for Discounting in Net Present Value Cost-Benefit Analysis: A Business Case?. New Space, 5(3), 141–154. doi:10.1089/space.2017.0017