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"...a market economy is essentially a genetic algorithm for solving resource allocation problems..."
- Charles Stross

Space Tug  
  A small vessel used to maneuver other ships.  

As far as I know, the first use of this term.

The costs of prospecting in the asteroids were far more than local prospecting on an inhabited planet. The prospector had to buy his own ether boat, fuel, oxygen, implements and food. Then the costs of getting his boat into space were a very big item. Small boats like those were never equipped with the powerful engines that big liners had to leave and land on a planet. The owner had to pay a professional concern a certain sum of money for which they would clamp his little boat onto a huge-engined space tug-boat. This boat would take him about five hundred miles up where the little engine would then have enough power to propel it away from the powerful pull of the planet. On the return trip, the prospector had to stop his ship some thousand or so miles away from the planet and radio for a tug-boat to bring him to the ground.
Technovelgy from Murder on the Asteroid, by Eando Binder.
Published by Wonder Stories in 1933
Additional resources -

Jack Williamson also had a good description in his 1941 story Collision Orbit:

He had bought the Goodby Jane out of his own savings... and built up a good salvage and towing business. But since the war, only the great monopolies could afford to buy salvage and towing permits from the Mandate government. There were no more jobs for spatial engineers...

...the quiet little asterite had a stubborn independence... he was waiting for better times to come - living aboard the little space tug to save the cost of lodgings.

...the square nose of the Goodby Jane was visible across the steeply convex field, at the end of a row of rusting ore barges. The space tug was somewhat larger than a twentieth-century railroad car turned on end and stripped of wheels. The angular, neglected hull, pocked with meteor blisters stood five decks high. With only a few instruments protruding, it looked very much like a rectangular ingot of rust-reddened steel.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Murder on the Asteroid
  More Ideas and Technology by Eando Binder
  Tech news articles related to Murder on the Asteroid
  Tech news articles related to works by Eando Binder

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