Last week we looked at water in the Aliens & Asteroids universe through the lens of trade and industry to scare up some plot or adventure ideas. Next up in the trade parade for the universe of Aliens & Asteroids is metal.
Metals in the Future
Water may be important for fuel, air, and hydration, but you’ll need some place to put it when you go traveling in the universe. As such, the building of ships become another stepping stone to exploration and commercial endeavors. You definitely need space to bring your stuff with you if you plan on going anywhere. But there were issues to conquer.
We began on Earth, but we knew we would eventually run out of the resources we needed. Then there was the Asteroid Field, a tantalizing band of rocks just waiting to be exploited. And as we dove in, we figured out better and more efficient ways to not only gather the ore we needed, but refine it, and eventually shape it as we needed.
3D printing foundries became the answer to the manufacturing side pretty quickly. In time, they ran constantly in orbiting shipyards and refining facilities across the system. They could, in an automated fashion, create any shape and size of component we needed for the construction of spacecraft, orbital stations, satellites, robots, ground facilities, and any other targeted project we needed. Some were used to create strong composites out of ceramics, but the bones of these constructs were often metal through and through. Through the art of prefabrication, human and robotic crews were able to rapidly deploy huge projects quickly.
But it wasn’t just the initial construction of these projects where 3D printing became important. Replacement parts in the depth of space and on missions throughout Dominion space became critical as well. As such, on-board or on-premises 3D foundries were needed as well to create a huge swath of pieces on demand. Things break and often they are mission critical with no shipyard at hand. Creative engineers were able to use printing technologies to close that gap and keep their ships flying longer, farther, with a bit of help.
Whether at a shipyard or out in the depths of space, 3D printing requires raw materials. Many parts are composed of printed layers of composites, mixing ceramics and metals to achieve stronger, longer-lasting materials where needed. In many cases, these composites can use lower-order elements such as copper. However, efficiency often requires better materials such as titanium. As such, as we expand through the universe we have needed to continue the search for new sources of metals everywhere we go.
The Asteroid Field provides much of what we need. Early on, the Dominion decreed that Earth-based mining operations should cease to let the cradle of our civilization heal from centuries of abuse. Raw metals and materials from space-based sources then became commonplace in the market. Forward thinking developers saw opportunities for mines on lifeless worlds like Mercury, leading to mining opportunities automated by a “manufactured and specialized” workforce, perpetuating the need for more of the same materials we needed in other industries.
We are now several decades into the efforts of Cyberdyne and Taylortech on Mercury with little chance of seeing a slowdown any time soon. Similar operations exist even beyond our own solar system.
The end result is a booming marketplace for new materials. Though the larger operations of the Belt Mining Association definitely hold the lion’s share of the profits, smaller companies and individuals can still reap the rewards of staking claims as yet discovered.
All of this requires extensive transportation and refining options for raw materials as well as the distribution of spools of refined materials ready for 3D printing foundries. Materials of all sorts are constantly traveling through Dominion space, subjected to the standard risks of space travel and the potential risk of piracy among well-traveled routes.
The DSTA relies heavily on the DDS and DSF for securing facilities and routes across Dominion space, presenting an ever-present need for more and more trained men and women to fill those roles.